America needs more women in positions of power. That’s one of the most common and uncontroversial takeaways from the unremitting sexual harassment scandals that are rocking the country, from Capitol Hill to Hollywood.
So why are Senate Democrats blocking qualified women from assuming leadership positions in Washington, where change is sorely needed?
Currently, dozens of highly qualified women who have been appointed to important government jobs are waiting for Senate confirmation.
Women like Janet Dhillon, who President Trump nominated on June 29 to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Dhillon has a decades-long career as a top lawyer at major law firms and corporations. Her Senate confirmation hearing took place on September 19th, but nearly three months later, the Senate still yet to approve her nomination.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth was nominated on October 2 to be Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the Department of Transportation. Ms. Furchtgott-Roth has worked as a leading economist for Presidents Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. She is also waiting for approval.
Isabel Marie Keenan Patelunas has worked for the CIA since 1989, serving as the Deputy Director of the CIA’s Office of Middle East and North Africa Analysis and now as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service. She was nominated to become the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of the Treasury in June.
Why are these impressive women’s appointments still pending after so many months?
Here’s why. Senate Democrats have been consistently rejecting the Majority’s request for unanimous consent for uncontroversial appointments—the norm under previous administrations—and forcing the Senate to use 30 hours of floor time to debate each nominee. As a result, currently 238 of the President’s 492 nominations are still pending, an unprecedented backlog of nominations and leaving critical agencies under-staffed.
The Senate Policy Committee released a report this summer detailing the Senate Minority’s striking break with precedent in blocking routine confirmations. In the first six months of the Trump administration, just 55 of the President’s 257 nominations were confirmed. In the first six months of the Obama Administration, the Senate confirmed 206 nominees. Overwhelmingly, the Republican Senate Minority allowed Obama’s nominees to be confirmed without full, roll call votes or lengthy debate. Only five of President Trump’s nominees during those first six months were confirmed using the expedited process.
This trend continues. This 30-hour procedure isn’t being used to vet nominees who the Minority finds objectionable. Once brought to a vote, nominees are often confirmed with overwhelming support. Take Judge David Nye. Nye had first been appointed by President Obama. On May 8, President Trump nominated him to serve in Idaho’s U.S. District Court, but Democrats still demanded that his appointment receive 30 hours of floor debate. He was finally confirmed on July 12, unanimously. Nye got off relatively easy: Just this week, the Senate finally confirmed Susan Parker Bodine to be assistant administrator of the EPA by Voice Vote. Her nomination has been pending since May.
Presumably Senate Democrats believe that stalling these nominations harms the Trump Administration, and makes it harder for the President to enact his agenda. But, in fact, it harms all Americans, by leaving our agencies and judiciary under-staffed and unable to make needed reforms. It also harms the nominees themselves, including the dozens of highly-qualified women whose careers and lives are in limbo while waiting for these petty political games to play out.
At the end of this session, all current nominations expire and the President will have to re-nominate candidates, creating even more delays. How many potentially valuable public servants will decide it isn’t worth the hassle and withdraw in order to move on with their lives and careers? This is the swamp at its worst. Americans who wonder why the pace of change in Washington is so slow should know that Senate Democrats deserve a big share of the blame.