By Sen. John Thune
If you’re a dedicated C-SPAN viewer or can harken back to your old high school civics class, you know that in addition to voting on bills and treaties, senators have the unique responsibility of providing their advice and consent with respect to various executive and judicial branch nominations made by the president.
“Advice and consent” is a technical way of saying senators vet and then vote to confirm or reject individuals to posts within the federal government, like cabinet secretaries, certain agency leaders, and judges. It’s an exclusive role that sets the legislative branch apart from its counterparts, and it’s critically important to ensure the government operates efficiently and effectively.
Particularly when it comes to posts within his administration, the president has historically been granted a certain level of deference so he can assemble a team of advisors with whom he trusts and shares the same public policy vision. That’s not to say the Senate is a rubberstamp, though. Not everyone who is nominated automatically gets confirmed, nor should they, which is why we all take our role in vetting and confirming nominees seriously. And for me, as chairman of the Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over several federal agencies, that role is only heightened.
Since President Trump took office just over one year ago, though, this process has seriously eroded. My Democrat colleagues are on a mission to slow down or outright block perfectly qualified nominees. Why? Politics, pure and simple. They’re still upset that the election ended up the way that it did. That’s democracy, though. Just because someone disagrees with the outcome of an election, it doesn’t mean they should just take their ball and go home. It’s irresponsible and shortsighted.
In President Trump’s first two years in office (which he has yet to complete, by the way), so many of his nominees have already faced unnecessary procedural roadblocks that the Senate has been forced to cast nearly 90 time-consuming votes just to keep the process moving forward. To put that into perspective, nominations made by the previous six presidents, including President Obama, faced 24 of these votes – combined – in their first two years in office. This new level of partisanship exemplifies everything the American people hate about Washington, D.C.
For example, we just confirmed Mike Pompeo to serve as secretary of state, after overcoming days of unnecessary delays. He’s as qualified as they come. First in his class at West Point. Five years of active-duty service in the Army. Harvard Law graduate. Congressman. Director of the CIA. While this is exactly the kind of person we need as our nation’s top diplomat, only a handful of Democrats broke ranks to join us.
As I mentioned, it wasn’t always like this. Former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton – both Democrats, nominated by a Democrat president – were confirmed 94-3 and 94-2, respectively. Nearly unanimous. Believe me, Republicans didn’t support these nominees because we agreed with all of their policies. Instead, we saw the importance of helping the president assemble his team, which in turn helps the American people succeed.
Listen, I understand that my Democrat colleagues still wish their candidate had won the election and was in the White House. But if they’re going to continue to live in the electoral past, it will be the American people, not President Trump, who suffers. We owe it to the people who elected us to look to the future and work for, not against their best interests. That means ending this obstruction for the sake of obstruction and moving on with the people’s business.