It seems that Republicans feel the entire purpose of controlling the Senate is just to confirm nominees for the other branches of government. As such, shouldn’t they at least put the pedal to the metal on judicial and executive nominations before the election?
In an interview with the Washington Post following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., triumphantly declared, “I want to thank the mob, because they’ve done the one thing we were having trouble doing, which was energizing our base.”
I almost fell out of my chair when I read that comment, not because the assertion isn’t true but because it is an unambiguous self-indictment and admission that everything he’s done until now has failed to energize voters and everything other than Supreme Court picks will likely continue to fall flat with voters. The big question is: When will McConnell and his colleagues learn the broader lesson and be proactive instead of reactive?
Obviously, if we had a tenacious Republican Party, they’d call both houses back into session for the remainder of the month and pass a blitzkrieg of legislation dealing with illegal immigration, Obamacare, abortion, religious liberty, and terrorism-related issues. Not only would these be winning issues in themselves, they would elicit the same unhinged reaction from the mob and create a self-fulfilling prophecy of GOP wins at the ballot box – much more than any phony stump speeches they could deliver on the campaign trail. There’s no better campaign strategy for re-election than delivering on key promises on the job.
But I live in the real world, with the understanding that Republicans believe the entire purpose of controlling the Senate is to merely confirm nominees. Fine. I’m game. Here’s a blueprint for building on the success of the past few weeks, keeping the focus on nominations, and getting Democrats to set themselves on fire while also keeping them off the campaign trail to boot. Trump and McConnell should call only the Senate into session for all of the remainder of the campaign season and burn up the clock on Trump’s remaining judicial and executive nominees, thereby pulling all the vulnerable Democrat senators off the campaign trail. They should even keep the chamber open over weekends. Instead, they currently plan to recess next Thursday, after voting on just a few nominees.
Putting aside the election for a moment, there is another grave problem conservatives need to confront. This is the most understaffed administration this late into its tenure of any presidency in recent memory. So many nominees at the assistant attorney general or undersecretary level have not been confirmed yet. You know what that means? In many cases, we still have Obama holdovers running critical agencies.
Consider the following:
Let’s face it, the Senate has done nothing worthwhile for the past two years other than pass the tax cuts. It’s not like leadership is in a rush to deal with our border and interior enforcement priorities or repeal Obamacare. The only thing they are elected to do, in their own estimation, is to confirm nominees. So why not hold open the Senate for 24 hours every day, including weekends, until Democrats relent on their obstruction of nominees? How will they respond? Run ads against Republicans for making them work rather than campaign? Either that, or they will be forced to smear more individual nominees in public, whereupon voters will respond, “There you go again!”
In addition to executive nominees, there are also a lot of pending judicial nominees. There are currently 10 circuit judge nominees and 60 district judge nominees sitting in the Senate. Only nine district judges and two circuit judges are pending on the Senate calendar. What better way to rip off the Democrat scab on the Kavanaugh fight and further press the advantage than to have Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley hold marathon hearings and markups confirming as many judges as possible over the next month?
Unless Republicans press Democrats at their most vulnerable time and keep them in session over weekends, when will they ever confirm all of these nominees? Moreover, confirming the nominees now will free up the Senate to do good legislative work after the election and focus on a budget fight in December. Unless, of course, they have no plans to do so.
The outlook for Republicans is a lot more auspicious than it was a few weeks ago, but they are still expected to lose control of the House. The best way to win the House is to use their control of the Senate to make an election issue of nominations, keep vulnerable Democrats off the campaign trail, and force them into a debate over an issue that is hurting them with voters.
Last week, Matt Gorman, communications director for the GOP committee responsible for keeping the House, quipped, “The Republican Party does three things: cut taxes, kill terrorists and confirm judges. When we do those things, we energize our base and are also appealing to independent voters.”
To that end, if Republicans have no interest in doing anything else but outsourcing their power to the other two branches, at least confirm them all! Do it day and night from now until November 6.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.