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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The American Presidency in PARALYSIS

Arnold Steinberg

(Warning: Spoiler at the end.)

Is the next vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court sooner or later?
Liberals despair. Trump’s “progressive” critics, long champions of a strong presidency, notably Barack Obama’s robust executive power, are abruptly born-again skeptics. What’s to worry? Trump’s Neil Gorsuch remains a constitutionalist who would challenge an imperial presidency. But Democrats don’t want to challenge this president; they want to destroy him.
The crisis is not that Trump will fill another vacancy on the Supreme Court, or the myriad openings throughout the federal judiciary, or the major unfilled positions throughout the executive branch that also require U.S. Senate confirmation. The scandal is that Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and his co-conspirators are sabotaging not the Trump presidency, but the office itself. Where are the political science professors and other do-gooder academics? Could they be in a “safe space”?
Trump was barely inaugurated when demagogues like (the ethics-challenged) Maxine Waters urged impeachment. If there is an Administration “cover-up” — it may be without a crime! Meanwhile, the mainstream media ignore that the democratic process is disrupted, not by Russians and Putin, but by Senate Democrats and Schumer who will not allow this elected president to govern.
Obama had a fetish for executive orders, in effect legislating from the Oval Office. The mythology to explain this madness was that Republicans on Capitol Hill thwarted his agenda. In fact, Democrats controlled the Senate for nearly his entire tenure. And the Senate, Republicans included, generally acted expeditiously in confirming Obama’s judicial appointments until arguably his last year.
The judges that Trump would nominate are likely to believe we live in a republic, in which they consult the U.S. Constitution to limit the abuses not just of the executive but of unconstrained populist rule, a topic I shall discuss next month at Freedom Fest (Las Vegas, July 19-22). Note the abundance of impressive speakers there (, mainly libertarians who are hardly Trump sycophants, and surely believers in ordered liberty, unlike Sen. Schumer who believes the Senate, on selecting those integral to governance, should not “advise and consent,” but procrastinate and ignore.
Here’s what you need to know now. In the 2013-2014 Democrat controlled Senate, its leader, the infamous Sen. Harry Reid, pushed a standing rule (which expired January 2015) that required (read: limited to) only two hours of post cloture debate on any Obama nominee to a federal district court. This rule also limited debate to only eight hours for any executive branch nominee below cabinet level. We’re talking about the men and women who hold the key positions (Assistant Secretary of…) that effectively run the federal government.
Reid’s maneuver allowed President Obama’s expedited processing of dozens of judicial and subcabinet nominations each week. Each week!
That was then, and this is now. Reid’s successor, Sen. Schumer, has demanded cloture filings on eachpresidential nomination, a maneuver that burns two days and then another thirty hours on the floor of the Senate. Even if the Senate did not consider any legislation (obviously not the case), Schumer’s maneuver would allow no more than two or three nominations per week. This applies even to nominations that might have unanimous or near unanimous support. This is not just paralysis of the executive branch but sabotage of the judiciary. Our overloaded federal district and appellate courts deal with hundreds of thousands of filings a year.
Where are the New York Times and the Washington Post to protest this irresponsible assault on the principle of governance? In effect, President Trump has the responsibility to lead the nation, but he is effectively denied the authority to do his job. How can you hold President Trump accountable for a government he cannot put together?
We’re talking about a total of nearly 700 major positions requiring Senate confirmation, pivotal appointments in the executive branch that relate to national security, international relations, economic policy, and the entire panoply of the federal government, including 130 judicial nominations.
Do the math. This president would not have a full government, even in his second term! This is ridiculous. Perhaps the Senate should cancel the summer recess, and also work nights, weekends, holidays, regularly. That would be too much even for the moralistic good witch, Elizabeth Warren, who might then belatedly acknowledge that Trump is the president who should be enabled, not subverted, in putting his team in place.
Indeed, I have a more modest proposal. Let’s make America governable again. At the minimum, Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats should agree to the same rules that his predecessor Harry Reid and his Democrat colleagues applied to process the Obama appointees. If the 2-hour and 8-hour rules were good enough for Barack Obama then, they are good enough for President Donald J. Trump now.

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