April 17, 2018

A Better Nominations Process


  • Senate rules allow the minority party to force the Senate to spend 30 hours on a nomination after cloture is invoked.
  • In 2013, Republicans joined with the Democrat majority to pass a resolution temporarily reducing post-cloture time needed before a confirmation vote for President Obama’s nominees.
  • Senator Lankford has offered a resolution to make those changes permanent.

Democrats have slowed the confirmation process through the use of procedural roadblocks. The result has been historic delays for nominees, including people with wide support from both parties.

Under Senate rules, the Senate must spend 30 hours considering a nominee after cloture is invoked, unless an agreement is reached to shorten the debate. Waiting for this post-cloture time to expire slows down the nomination process and limits the Senate from conducting legislative business on the floor. By forcing the Senate to take an unprecedented number of cloture votes on President Trump’s nominees, Democrats have impeded the functioning of the Senate and distracted from legislative matters.

Comparing Senator Lankford’s Proposal to the 2013 Resolution

Lankford Proposal

In 2013, a bipartisan Senate majority adopted a resolution that temporarily reduced the time needed to confirm President Obama’s nominees. Senator James Lankford has proposed returning to this 2013 framework, which would allow the Senate to confirm nominees more quickly and free up the Senate floor for other important business. On December 19, 2017, the Senate Rules Committee held a hearing to consider Senator Lankford’s proposal.

The 2013 resolution reduced post-cloture time for most executive branch nominees outside the cabinet from 30 hours to eight hours. It limited post-cloture time for district court nominees to two hours. Time limits for cabinet-level officials, circuit judges, and Supreme Court justices stayed at 30 hours. Under the terms of the resolution, the change expired at the end of the 113th Congress.

The expiration of the 2013 resolution has allowed the nominations process to slow significantly. According to the Partnership for Public Service, as of April 12, it has taken an average of 84 days from nomination for President Trump’s executive branch nominees to be confirmed. As of April 12, 2010, President Obama’s executive branch nominees were being confirmed in an average of 65 days.

Senator Lankford’s resolution would help reduce the slowdown by restoring the 2013 post-cloture time rules and make them permanent. The change would apply to the current administration and all future ones.

Issue Tag: Senate