Less debate time for Trump picks after Senate rules change

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s Senate GOP allies, frustrated by delays in confirming dozens of lower-profile nominees, rammed through a rules change Wednesday that cuts back debate on most of his picks.

The GOP plan, approved 51-48, indefinitely restored rules in place during the first few years of President Barack Obama’s second term. Those rules had lapsed, allowing any senator to force 30 hours of debate.

The rules change limits debate on most nominees to two hours instead of 30. White House selections for the Cabinet, Supreme Court and appeals courts would be exempted from the new rules. Every Democrat opposed the maneuver, joined by two Republicans: Susan Collins of Maine and Mike Lee of Utah.

The Senate changed the rules after a partisan debate that featured unusually personal finger-pointing between the chamber’s party leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

McConnell, no stranger to obstructionist tactics himself, said the situation had gotten out of hand, with the Senate taking 128 votes to end debate on Trump’s nominees during his first two years in office, far more than under other presidents.

“The comprehensive campaign by Senate Democrats to delay Senate consideration of presidential nominations is now more than two years old,” McConnell said. “It’s time for this sorry chapter to end.”

Schumer said McConnell was Machiavellian, cynical and hypocritical.

“At a time when Leader McConnell brags about confirming more judges than anyone has done in a very long time, he feels the need to invoke the terribly destructive and disproportionate procedure of the ‘nuclear option’ in order to fast-track even more of President Trump’s ultra-conservative nominees to the federal bench,” Schumer said.