Delay Is Now the Democratic Party’s Best Friend


Ian Ostrander reminds us today that even if you can’t filibuster, you can still filibuster:

It’s important to note that even though the 2013 Senate got rid of filibusters for most judicial nominees, the minority still has many ways to delay action. Under the new Senate rules a determined minority can still require 30 hours of debate even after a cloture vote, which closes the discussion. Using this procedure on every nomination would actually require more time than the Senate works in an average presidential term.

If Democratic senators use the full debate time on every nomination, the resulting logjam would enable only key nominations to pass — because every nominee would require cloture. That’s exactly the situation that President Barack Obama faced, after the Democratic leadership eliminated the filibuster. He could overcome obstruction on any individual nomination, but not on every nomination. The figure below shows the staggering increase in the use of cloture to overcome obstruction. This is the new normal for nominations in a post-nuclear Senate.

After Democrats eliminated the filibuster for judicial and executive nominees, Republicans began a campaign of epic delay on every nomination. This wasn’t because they actually opposed all of Obama’s nominees, it was because they wanted to use up floor time. There wasn’t much they wanted to do that would survive Obama’s veto pen anyway, so why not? Democrats are now doing the same thing, and since they’re in the minority it’s practically the only tool they still have available to influence legislation:

Every moment spent on confirming Cabinet nominees is a moment not spent on the Republican agenda. Every ounce of executive and legislative energy spent on a Cabinet nomination is effort taken from other priorities….Delay may be the Democrats’ best tool for bringing Republicans to the bargaining table.

This kind of delaying game gives Donald Trump a choice: accept that he won’t be able to fill most of the lower-level position in his administration, or else make a deal with the Democrats. Eventually, something has to give.