Se­nate ap­proves 77 Trump picks in deal at Congress’ end

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ALEX SWOYER

The Se­nate ap­proved 77 Trump nom­i­na­tions in an end-of-Congress deal Wed­nes­day night, fill­ing out the ranks of fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors, am­bas­sadors, the White House science ad­viser and the post of anti-drug czar — but no new judges.

The deal came on the fi­nal day of the 115th Congress, with Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell, stand­ing alone on the cham­ber floor, read­ing out the nom­i­na­tion num­bers then con­firm­ing them by voice vote.

The move caps what’s been an ex­tra­or­di­nary two years of both un­prece­dented ac­tion and ob­struc­tion, and presages bat­tles still to come over the next two years.

First up will be a de­ci­sion for Mr. Trump on some 300 or so nom­i­na­tions that still lan­guish, in­clud­ing more than 85 ju­di­cial picks that never saw fi­nal ac­tion. Un­der nor­mal rules, all of those will ex­pire at the end of the old Congress, mark­ing a vic­tory for lib­eral ac­tivists who’d warned Demo­cratic lead­ers against any en masse ap­provals.

Mr. Trump can renom­i­nate them in the new Congress, where many will again face Demo­cratic de­lays.

But the pres­i­dent’s back­ers are get­ting rest­less and one of them says he should be more ag­gres­sive and flex his re­cess ap­point­ment pow­ers, in­stalling a bunch of picks in the time be­tween the end of the old Congress and the con­ven­ing of the new one.

“I sup­port the ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity for this al­ter­na­tive ap­point­ment process to keep our gov­ern­ment run­ning — that is what it boils down to,” said Vic­tor Wil­liams, an ad­junct law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Mary­land and head of Amer­ica First Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion.

There’s his­tor­i­cal prece­dent. Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt made a sim­i­lar move dur­ing the end of one ses­sion and the be­gin­ning of an­other in 1903.

But other le­gal an­a­lysts say a 2014 Supreme Court de­ci­sion has changed the rules, with the court say­ing a re­cess gen­er­ally must last at least 10 days for the pres­i­dent’s pow­ers to kick in.

“Un­less Congress de­cides to hold a re­cess of suf­fi­cient length, the pres­i­dent does not have that op­tion,” Jonathan Adler, a law pro­fes­sor at Case Western Univer­sity, told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Mr. Trump com­plained about the slow walk­ing of his nom­i­nees in a tweet.

“For FAR TOO LONG Se­nate Democrats have been Ob­struct­ing more than 350 Nom­i­na­tions. These great Amer­i­cans left their jobs to serve our Coun­try, but can’t be­cause Dems are block­ing them, some for two years — his­toric record. Passed com­mit­tees, but Schumer putting them on hold. Bad!” the pres­i­dent tweeted.

The num­bers bear him out, with 55 per­cent of the 1,158 peo­ple he has nom­i­nated for civil­ian po­si­tions dur­ing his first two years be­ing con­firmed.

By con­trast, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama saw 81 per­cent of his picks ap­proved in his first Congress and Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton scored 87 per­cent. Even Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, who faced a Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate, fared bet­ter than Mr. Trump, with 72 per­cent of his nom­i­nees ap­proved in his first two years.

Mr. Wil­liams said he would like to see Mr. Trump test his re­cess pow­ers even with the high court’s de­ci­sion.

But he also blames Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell for fail­ing to cre­ate the kinds of long re­cesses Mr. Trump would need to use his pow­ers.

“He has kept the Se­nate run­ning these sham pro forma ses­sions ev­ery three days to void the abil­ity of Pres­i­dent Trump to make these re­cess ap­point­ments,” Mr. Wil­liams said. “That as­sures the op­por­tu­nity does not come up for Pres­i­dent Trump.”

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