Senate Republican leaders plan to move a package of President Donald Trump’s nominees for confirmation before a recess that could begin as soon as Aug. 4.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is seeking to move “a number of nominees” during the next few days, he said as lawmakers returned to work July 31. Others in the Republican leadership team said McConnell wants to clear dozens of Trump’s nominees before lawmakers depart for the break.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) told Bloomberg BNA after a meeting of GOP leaders in McConnell’s office that he and other lawmakers are scheduling committee action on nominees in hopes of getting them into whatever package McConnell is able to negotiate with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“I’m hoping we’ll get a big package,” said Thune, whose Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee plans to advance almost 20 nominees on Aug. 2.
Thune said his list includes many of Trump’s top nominees to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, the Commerce Department, and the Transportation Department.
“I hope they’ll hitch a ride on whatever package could be agreed upon,” Thune said in an interview. “We’re already talking to the floor staff and Democrats about what is possible. They’re trying to do as many as they can on unanimous consent.”
Among those scheduled for committee votes on Aug. 2 are Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Brendan Carr to serve as members of the FCC. Pai is the commission’s current chairman, Rosenworcel is a former commissioner, and Carr is the agency’s general counsel.
Thune said some nominees currently pending on the Senate’s executive calendar deserve to have stand-alone votes, including Christopher Wray to serve as director of the FBI. Wray was approved 20-0 by the Judiciary Committee recently and Thune didn’t rule out a scenario where he is confirmed before the break.
“It’s an important position and he needs to be confirmed,” Thune said of Wray.
Thune said the package of nominations may be the most significant matter in the Senate over the next few days, though he said action on a veterans bill and a Food and Drug Administration measure also is possible. He said his committee’s bill to reauthorize federal aviation programs will be on hold until September.
Thune said McConnell also has to negotiate with Schumer on whether the Senate will hold pro forma sessions during the upcoming break to prevent Trump from making recess appointments. Trump is rumored to be considering firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and making a recess appointment of his successor.
“I certainly hope he doesn’t fire Jeff Sessions but the decision about pro formas has to be made by the leader,” Thune said.
Schumer said on the Senate floor July 31 that Democrats are demanding pro forma sessions to head off what he said would be a “constitutional crisis.”
“The Senate should remove even the possibility of it coming about,” Schumer said. “So in the tradition of the Senate, I expect we will hold pro forma sessions throughout the upcoming recess to prevent a recess appointment from being made.”
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