Loading...
Bless our hearts as Edmund Burke quoted: The only thing necessary for the triump of evil is for good men(and women) to...

Bipartisan battle lines on confirmations hardening

PONNURU

Ramesh Ponnuru

Loading…

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Scott Pruitt, the embattled director of the Environmental Protection Agency, still has his job in part because the White House doesn't think it can get anyone it would want to replace him confirmed by the Senate. Gina Haspel's nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency is hanging by a thread.

Both cases are part of a larger trend: The partisan battle lines over confirmation are rapidly hardening.

When President Barack Obama took office, his first EPA director, Lisa Jackson, was confirmed without a roll-call vote. By his second term, confirmation had become more contentious: Gina McCarthy got six Republican votes. Pruitt won the votes of only two Democratic senators.

The speed of the change can also be seen in the confirmation votes for the last four secretaries of State. Condoleezza Rice, even though she was nominated at the height of the Iraq war, got 85 votes. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, nominated during the Republican Party's allegedly scorched-earth opposition to Obama, each got 94. But most Democrats opposed both of President Donald Trump's nominees, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, who got 56 and 57 votes respectively.

Several Democrats who voted against Pompeo cited his conservative views on same-sex marriage and abortion, the kind of social issue that did not keep Republicans from voting for Clinton and Kerry (or, for that matter, for Rice). It would not be surprising, though, if the next Democratic nominee to the position gets a lot of no votes from Senate Republicans because of these issues.

Republicans and Democrats will argue over which side is more to blame for the phenomenon, but it is indisputable that the red state/blue state divide is becoming an ever larger factor in nomination battles. Of the six Democrats who voted for Pompeo, five are facing re-election this year in a state that Trump carried handily.

If Democrats defy the odds to take the Senate this fall, Trump will have enormous difficulty getting new nominees through. He will either have to hold on to unsatisfactory heads of Cabinet agencies or rely heavily on acting ones. The volatility of Trump's staff will collide with the new partisanship of the confirmation process.

Some of this polarization is understandable. The EPA director can make a big difference in policy. It's reasonable for Democrats to want to withhold their imprimatur for a conservative approach to the environment, and for Republicans to want to make it harder to implement a liberal one.

At the same time, these stances can lead to outcomes that both sides would see as subpar. For most Republicans and Democrats alike, an EPA director with the same views as Pruitt but better ethics would be a step up. But contemporary politics gets in the way of making that switch.

So far, presidents have usually gotten their way on Cabinet appointments even as the opposition has become more united in trying to block their nominees. The impact of the trend toward party-line votes has been limited by the fact that presidents have mostly been dealing with allied Senate majorities. Ten of the last 11 presidential elections, and all of the last 7, have delivered the White House and the Senate to the same party. The exception, the 1988 election, came before the new norm.

One of these days — and maybe in 2021 — we will have a president starting a new term with the Senate in the other party's control. Then we will see how, and whether, an administration can function when the other side gets a veto over a lot of its top staff.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a senior editor at National Review, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and contributor to CBS News.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

July 12, 2019

Over the past three years, I have had the good fortune to work on a project that has the potential to transform the farming landscape in eastern North Carolina, one that involves harnessing gas produced from hog waste.

As CEO and founder of OptimaBio, our work with Smithfield Foods to capture…

Maloney

July 01, 2019

The American system of checks and balances government does not work the way most people think it does or the way the Founding Fathers said it would.

The president serves at the pleasure of Congress, just as the prime minister of the UK serves at the pleasure of Parliament, which means that the…

eleanorclift.jpg.jpg

June 26, 2019

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls are calling for Americans to make reparations for slavery. On June 19, the House judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties held a hearing. Its stated purpose was "to examine, through open and constructive discourse, the…

Walter Williams

June 10, 2019

The New York Times 

“Because it’s there.” For those who grew up on George Mallory’s famous explanation for his yearning to scale Mount Everest, with all the romance, danger and spirit of exploration it implied, that viral photograph of an endless line of climbers in…

June 10, 2019

Although it may not appear so, the leaders of both major political parties in North Carolina favor lowering the tax burden of large businesses. Their real dispute is about the scope and magnitude of the tax relief.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has consistently opposed recent state budgets, crafted by…

john hood.jpg

June 10, 2019

We are just weeks away from the first of 20 Democratic debates scheduled this primary season. It gets underway over two nights in Miami on June 26 and 27, and never before has there been a debate this early in the election and potentially this important.

The reason there are so many candidates, 23…

eleanorclift.jpg.jpg

June 09, 2019

Gerrymandering has always been part of American politics. After all, the term was coined in 1812 after Massachusetts governor and Founding Father Elbridge Gerry endorsed a state senate district that resembled a salamander.

Until recently, federal courts have been highly reluctant to enter the…

Steve and Cokie Roberts

June 09, 2019

It is not unfair to point out that President Trump, on many important subjects, is just an ignoramus.

A vivid illustration of this unfortunate fact came this week in London, when it was revealed that Prince Charles, a knowledgeable environmentalist, had tried to educate the president on climate…

Eugene Robinson

June 09, 2019

"When you are told all your life you're dumb, unworthy, you start believing it. God changed that for me."

Jerry, from Youngstown, Tennessee, hesitated to be interviewed by Chris Arnade, because "I don't know my ABCs, so I can't really talk right." He told Arnade, the author of the new book…

kathrynlopez

June 09, 2019

Senate Republicans are pushing back on President Trump's plan to impose tariffs on Mexico. But if Mexican officials think these Republicans are going to save them from Trump's tariffs, it's time for them to think again.

So far, congressional Republicans have managed to remain bystanders in Trump's…

MarcThiessen
175 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 18
        Next Page»   Last Page»