11 July 2013

Sensible Reform proposals on cloture, advice and consent on nominations

The Senate could, in principle, adopt a cloture rule of simple majority, and it already takes only a simple majority to approve appointments. As I read the "Advice and Consent" Clause, this is perfectly harmonious with the intent and letter of the Constitution.
Art. II, sec. 2, cl. 2:
[The President] shall nominate, and, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

I think the plain language here makes it pretty damn clear that the Senate has NO DAMN BUSINESS holding up nominations. The clause says the president shall appoint, "by and with" advice and consent.

Even without an amendment to the constitution, I think a very reasonable rule change would be this:

Nominations must be proposed for vote of cloture within [let's say] 20 days of receipt of nomination.
Cloture vote simple majority. Debate must end within 40 days of nomination, regardless of whether cloture motion proposed or passed, and a vote on the nomination must then take place. Failure to vote up or down by the end of the applicable period under the rule will result in the automatic scheduling of a vote on the nominee without (further) debate, to take place within five days thereafter. 

This to be in conjunction with a rule change that says that any Senator at any time may propose cloture (Cutoff of debate and scheduling of vote) on any measure, which motion on second must receive a vote forthwith. Simple majority cuts off debate. And, except where the Constitution explicitly provides otherwise, simple majority passes any measure. Veep, of course, breaks ties, which is in the Constitution anyway.

This procedure, as I am envisioning it, would apply only to nominations, although conceivably something like it could be made to apply to presidentially proposed legislation, too. That, however, almost certainly would require an amendment to the Constitution.

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