Senator Chuck Schumer marvelously trolls Mitch McConnell, using his own words with Harry Reid against him.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent the exact same letter Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent to Harry Reid in 2009, simply swapping out some of the names and even went so far as to read the letter on the Senate floor this Monday as reported by Chris Hayes for MSNBC.
At the time, the situation was reversed as Democrats were in the majority, and McConnell himself was the Minority Leader submitting his letter to the Majority Leader Reid.
Schumer posted the updated letter on his official Twitter page, writing: “Our requests are eminently reasonable, shared by leaders of both parties. I’ll return this letter to @SenateMajLdr with the same requests.”
Posted Monday morning, the tweet has received over 50K likes and has been shared over 35K times.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 9, 2017
The letter began by noting that “The Senate has the Constitutional duty to provide its Advice and Consent on Presidential nominations, a duty which we take seriously. In consultation with our Ranking Members, we affirm our commitment to conduct the appropriate review of these nominations, consistent with the long standing and best practice of committees, regardless of which political party is in the majority. These best practices serve the Senate well, and we will insist on their fair and consistent application.”
It went on to list 8 demands “prior to considering any time agreements on the floor on any nominee” – meaning prior to any confirmation hearings being scheduled.
Those demands included:
- The FBI background check is complete and submitted to the committee in time for review and prior to a hearing be noticed.
- The Office of Government Ethics letter is complete and submitted to the committee in time for review prior to a committee hearing.
- Financial disclosure statements (and tax returns for applicable committees) are completed and submitted to the committee for review prior to a hearing being noticed.
- All committee questionnaires are complete and have been returned to the committee. A reasonable opportunity for follow-up questions has been afforded committee members, and nominees have answered, with sufficient time for review prior to a committee vote.
- The nominee is willing to have committee staff interviews, where that has been the practice.
- The nominee has had a hearing.
- The nominee agrees to courtesy visits with members when requested.
- The nominee has committed to cooperate with the Ranking Member on requests for information and transparency.
McConnell concluded his letter, writing that: “These common sense standards and long standing practices will ensure that the Senate has had the opportunity to fairly review a nominee’s record and to make an informed decision prior to a vote.”
As Vox reports, there is ample reason for the letter being resent to McConnell:
There’s a reason for the snark: Republicans, who control the Senate, are starting to hold nomination hearings before the nominees have completed background checks and ethics clearances that are traditionally required of Cabinet appointees. These were the first two standards that McConnell demanded of Obama’s Cabinet nominees eight years ago — and that the Obama administration met — when Democrats controlled the Senate.
Unfortunately, Republicans had an advantage at the time that Democrats do not enjoy today – the filibuster which requires 60 votes in the Senate to approve nominees.
As Vox explains:
But after years of Republican obstruction of Obama’s nominees, Democrats in the Senate dismantled the filibuster for executive nominees, including Cabinet positions. So now these executive nominations can’t be filibustered and only need a simple majority to get through.
Since Republicans have 52 of 100 seats in the Senate and only need 50 votes (the vice president, soon to be a Republican, can break a tie) to clear a nominee, they don’t have to worry about appeasing Democrats. And that leaves the minority party with no real political leverage for nominees, giving McConnell’s letter much less weight than it had eight years ago.