And that’s a bad thing.
While Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has her faults–notably choosing awful House candidates (and choosing bad ‘choosers’ too)–she is arguably the best floor whip of the last century. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, not so much (boldface mine):
Since passage of the 2017 tax law, the Senate has become little more than a confirmation factory for President Donald Trump’s appointees, and McConnell has badly outplayed Schumer in getting the job done. Sixty of Trump’s judicial nominations have been confirmed, more than those of any recent president. That includes 15 in the month of August alone, and seven at one time on Tuesday. It doesn’t include the eight additional ones scheduled for next week.
Since changes made by Reid’s Democratic majority in November 2013, judges only require a majority vote for confirmation in the Senate. Yet Reid was only able to get 14 Obama-nominated judges through the chamber in the year-plus before Democrats lost the majority; McConnell confirmed more than that just in August.
McConnell had a great insight as minority leader: There’s a finite amount of Senate floor time, and any one senator, regardless of party, can limit that floor time even more if he or she is willing to press the issue. Confirming Obama-appointed judges, even those who eventually got a unanimous vote, took long stretches of floor time, with Reid having to get a recorded vote twice, and burn off 30 hours of debate in between. This task competed with other executive branch nominees and legislation, some of it must-pass, forcing Reid to make tough choices on what votes to prioritize…
For example, under this week’s McConnell-Schumer deal, the Senate mass-confirmed seven judges Tuesday and scheduled eight for next week. In exchange, Democrats appeared to get this: a couple of the judges who were former Obama appointees, the re-nomination of Mark Pearce to a Democratic seat on the National Labor Relations Board, and the release of 85,000 documents from Brett Kavanaugh in advance of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Democrats were already entitled to much of this: They had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the Kavanaugh documents, and a re-nomination for the NLRB seat doesn’t guarantee a successful vote. Trading a couple of middle-of-the-road Obama judges for more than a dozen hardline Trump ones—including one rated “unqualified” by the American Bar Association—doesn’t make this much better.
If Schumer instead took the methodical approach that McConnell once employed, as former Reid staffer Adam Jentleson explained, making McConnell produce votes twice and using all debate time in between, it’s unlikely that all 15 judges would be confirmed between now and the end of the year. A determined majority can eventually confirm an individual judge, but between midterm elections, holidays, and many Republicans off to John McCain’s funeral—the real reason for yesterday’s deal—there just isn’t a lot of Senate floor time available. The result would be fewer of Trump’s judges getting confirmed. The power they will wield once they’re on the bench will be vastly more consequential than Schumer’s one-sided display of collegiality.
Before you suggest that the red-state Democrats needed to leave Washington to campaign, Schumer could have let them all go home and still pulled this off. Jentleson points out that you merely need one Democrat on the Senate floor at all times to object to fast-tracking nominations. The Senate operates entirely on unanimous consent of all members. A rotating cast of individual Democrats scrolling through their smartphones and saying “I object” at opportune moments is all that’s needed to grind the Senate to a halt. McConnell ought to know; it’s what he often did.
Schumer also screwed up a nomination to the National Labor Relations Board.
And someone this hapless isn’t going to rectify his mistakes by stacking the courts either.
Forget Pelosi, Schumer is the problem.