Behind on a laundry list of GOP agenda items, the Senate added two weeks to its legislative calendar—some House colleagues want the same—but running out of time is a symptom of a larger Republican problem.
Senate Republicans are in the middle of a heated healthcare battle, just one item on their docket of unfinished business. Lawmakers need to secure funding for U.S. troops by finalizing the defense authorization act. Republicans and Democrats also need to find a compromise on how to appropriate federal funds for 2018 before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The U.S. Treasury has been using special accounting measures to borrow enough money to avoid default. The current debt limit is set at $19.81 trillion, but the Congressional Budget Office predicts by mid-October the Treasury risks defaulting on some of its payments unless Congress raises the debt ceiling.
“Whether you are on the left end of the political spectrum, on the right end, or somewhere in between, it’s difficult to dispute the fact that there’s a lot that needs to be done,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
These are all obligatory, which means Congress has little time to pursue the legislative items President Donald Trump championed on the campaign trail—healthcare, tax reform, rebuilding U.S. infrastructure. Republicans have yet to deliver on a single major legislative victory more than six months into Trump’s presidency.
Trump blames the slow pace on Democrats obstructing everything—and he has a point, especially when it comes to appointments.
The Senate is responsible for confirming hundreds of political appointments to fill executive branch desks. So far, the Senate has confirmed just 48 of Trump’s 197 nominations for federal agencies and only three of his 23 judicial nominations.
Most of the time, for less controversial appointments, the Senate allows members to confirm nominees by a voice vote to save time. But just 10 percent of Trump’s nominations have passed the Senate with a voice vote, while 90 percent of President Barack Obama’s nominees cleared that way. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has demanded to call roll, even for undisputed appointments. The Senate confirmed David Nye as an Idaho federal court judge by a vote of 100-0 on Wednesday after Schumer stalled the process for three days.
“At the current rate, it would take 11 years and four months to confirm the nominees that have to be confirmed by the Senate,” said Sen. Roy Blount, R-Mo. “It is unacceptable and outrageous. Something has to change.”
Shortening the August recess is good messaging for Republicans who want to appear productive, especially in fulfilling Trump’s campaign promises, but it’s hard to imagine an extra two weeks will catch them up.
Publication date: July 17, 2017