R Sheet on Post-Cloture Debate Time for Presidential Nominations


James Wallner
Resident Senior Fellow, Governance
Kevin Kosar
Former Vice President, Research Partnerships

Key Points

Republicans can speed up the confirmation process by enforcing the Senate’s current rules and practices.

Strictly enforcing the provisions of Rule XXII limits the amount of time senators can filibuster to delay a confirmation vote on a nominee after cloture has been invoked.

Unlike the nuclear option, a rules-based strategy to overcome obstruction does not undermine the Senate’s Standing Rules more broadly.

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Republicans in the Senate are threatening to blow up the chamber’s rules if their Democratic colleagues do not support a proposal authored by Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) to shorten the amount of debate time senators have after cloture has been invoked on presidential nominations for some executive-branch and judicial positions. On Feb. 13, the Rules and Administration Committee approved the Blunt-Lankford proposal on a party-line vote and the measure currently awaits consideration by the full Senate.

By going nuclear to shorten post-cloture debate time, Republicans risk undermining the broader regime represented by the Senate’s Standing Rules. It would be the third time in six years that a majority of senators has acted unilaterally in violation of the rules. Each successful use of the nuclear option signals a growing ambivalence among rank-and-file senators regarding the importance of adhering to written rules to regulate the legislative process. As the tactic becomes routinized, the normative barriers surrounding important minority rights like the legislative filibuster are weakened.

Fortunately, the Senate’s current Standing Rules already empower a majority of the institution’s members to overcome most dilatory tactics after cloture has been invoked on a presidential nominee. Specifically, Senate majorities may shorten the amount of post-cloture time required for most nominees without using the destructive nuclear option by strictly enforcing Rule XXII (i.e., the cloture rule).

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