March 20, 2018

Democrats' Deliberate Delay


  • President Trump’s executive branch nominees are being confirmed at the slowest pace in decades, with only 364 confirmed through March 16, compared with 564 for President Obama.
  • Over President Trump’s first year, the Senate was required to cast 45 percent of its votes on executive branch nominees, versus only 7 percent of votes in President Obama’s first year.
  • At the end of 2017, 66 executive branch nominations were returned to the president because Democrats withheld consent, compared to 5 in President Obama’s first year.

Needless obstruction by Senate Democrats continues to slow the work of confirming nominees to a crawl. The Senate is spending far more of its time on cloture and roll-call votes on nominees than in the four previous administrations – even for nominees with broad bipartisan support.

Confirmed Nominees by March 16

Confirmed Positions

As of Friday, March 16, deliberate delay by Democrats has limited the Senate to confirming just 364 of President Trump’s nominees for positions in the executive branch and independent agencies. At the same point in previous administrations, substantially more nominees had been confirmed.

Average Days to Confirm Nominees

Average Days

It is taking longer to get from nomination to confirmation. The Senate has required an average of 82 days to confirm appointees in the Trump administration, according to the Partnership for Public Service. By contrast, through mid-March of President Obama’s second year in office, his nominees were confirmed in an average of 62 days. It took 42 days for President George W. Bush’s nominees, 48 days for President Clinton’s nominees, and 53 days for President George H.W. Bush’s nominees.

At the end of 2017, 66 executive branch nominations were returned to the president because Democrats withheld consent, compared to 5 in President Obama’s first year.

Confirmed After Cloture by March 16 – Trump vs. Past 4 Admins Combined

Confirmed Cloture

The Democrats have forced votes on nominees with wide or even unanimous bipartisan support. As of March 16, Democrats forced cloture votes on 50 Trump administration nominees before the Senate confirmed them. The previous four presidents combined had only 15 nominees confirmed after a cloture vote at this point in their terms: eight under President Obama; seven under President Clinton; zero for Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. Of President Trump’s nominees confirmed after cloture, 11 ultimately got over 80 votes for confirmation, and five of these got 90 votes or more.

For judicial nominees, all but one of the 14 district court judges confirmed this Congress required cloture votes. Of the 13 requiring cloture votes, eight were confirmed unanimously. None of the 44 district court judges confirmed in President Obama’s entire first Congress required a cloture vote.

Percentage of Floor Votes on Admin Nominations in 1st Year – Trump vs. Obama

Floor Votes

These procedural delays have wasted the Senate’s time, taking away from legislative business. During President Trump’s first year, 45 percent of Senate votes related to executive nominations. Only 7 percent of Senate votes in President Obama’s first year related to these nominations.

A Return to Precedent

Senator James Lankford has offered a resolution to help mitigate Democrats’ delay tactics and restore a fair process for nominees. Under this proposal, post-cloture time for most executive branch nominees outside the cabinet would permanently be reduced from 30 hours to eight hours. Post-cloture time for district court nominees would be reduced to two hours. Post-cloture time for cabinet-level officials would remain at 30 hours, as would post-cloture time for circuit judges and Supreme Court justices.

Senator Lankford’s proposal would return the Senate to the precedent the Democrat majority set under Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2013. At that time, Republicans agreed to reasonable limits on post-cloture time as part of a bipartisan resolution. That change was only temporary and has since expired.

Issue Tag: Senate