Wicker votes to confirm Mike Pompeo, reform Senate rules

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2018

By Roger Wicker 

Until recently, the confirmation of highly qualified nominees to the President’s Cabinet usually proceeded with broad bipartisan support.  This tradition should have been extended to the confirmation of Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state.

The Senate ultimately confirmed Mr. Pompeo to the Cabinet post, but the narrow vote of 57 to 42 for such an accomplished nominee is disappointing.  The former CIA director has a sterling record of achievement as a West Point graduate, Harvard Law graduate, Army captain, and member of the House of Representatives.  He has been widely backed by newspaper editorial boards, and more than a dozen Democrats voted to make him CIA director last year.

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I regret that Secretary Pompeo’s confirmation did not mark a return to the cooperation once shown in the Senate for executive and judicial nominees.  The Senate Democratic Leader has made delay tactics the norm rather than the exception for routine confirmation processes.  President Trump has had to wait 85 days on average for his nominees to be confirmed, much longer than his predecessors.

These unnecessary delays have become so incessant that it could take the Senate nine years to fill the remaining executive and judicial vacancies.  This stunning claim by the President recently earned the rare Geppetto Checkmark by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column for its accuracy.  The column breaks down the math: If Democrats were to demand the maximum debate time for the President Trump’s remaining 1,122 nominees, the Senate would be confirming them until 2027.

Most Americans agree that the President should be able to choose his closest advisors – a courtesy that seems especially appropriate when it comes to his national security team.  The secretaries of state who served during the Obama Administration received near unanimous support, and I am disappointed that Secretary Pompeo was not shown the same unity.  All politics aside, this was a crucial opportunity for the Senate to send a strong signal to the rest of the world, reaffirming its confidence in Secretary Pompeo’s leadership amid emerging challenges and threats.

To help resolve the current backlog of nominations, I cosponsored a Senate resolution that would permanently shorten the debate time on certain nominees.  I then voted in favor of it as a member of the Senate Rules Committee, which passed the resolution.  All of the committee’s Democrats opposed the resolution, despite it being the same rule change introduced by former Democratic Leader Harry Reid and adopted on a temporary basis in 2013 to confirm President Obama’s nominees. Under the proposed new rules, district judges and executive positions below the Cabinet level would no longer be subject to the maximum 30 hours of debate time.  Moreover, these nominations would no longer prevent the Senate from turning to other pressing legislative issues in need of consideration.  There is too much to do for our work to be sidelined by procedural maneuvers.  I hope this rule change will soon be adopted by the full Senate.