Senate Democrats have had a sudden change of heart after months of stalling judicial confirmation hearings. The breakthrough came when Republicans threatened to keep the Senate in over the weekend if that is what it would take to confirm four judicial nominees this week.
Under the current rules, nominees get 30 hours of debate, and in their efforts to gum up the works, Democrats have been insisting on using all 30 hours.
Republicans also said that they would reduce the 30-hour rule unilaterally unless Democrats agreed to speed things up. But according to a report in The Washington Examiner, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said that it was the threat of weekend work that made them decide to step up the pace.
“We did a calculation,” Durbin told reporters. “We could stay through the weekend and by Monday have the same result we are going to achieve. There was nothing to be gained by staying.”
“They completely caved,” one GOP aide said of the Democrats after Amy Barrett was confirmed to be a U.S. circuit judge for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday, and Joan Larsen was confirmed for the Sixth Circuit on Wednesday. The Senate is expected to confirm Allison Eid for the Tenth Circuit and Stephanos Bibas to the 3rd Circuit by the end of the week, possibly as early as Thursday.
Republicans’ threat to change the rules was also a factor in the Democrats’ decision. After imposing a rule change in 2013 that allows confirmations with just 51 votes instead of 60, they created a situation where, as long as Republicans are united, they won’t be able to block any of Trump’s nominees.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that threat was real. “We can change the precedents of the Senate. If they keep abusing this 30-hour [debate] requirement, things are going to change,” he warned.
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