Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Senator Schumer and I Agree: Let’s Confirm President Trump’s Nominees

All of a sudden, Senate Democrats are in a hurry to get President Trump’s nominees confirmed.  Or are they?

On April 27th, a group of Democratic Senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, sent a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielson requesting that she provide documentation in connection with Thomas Homan’s nomination to be Assistant Secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) so that “the Senate can consider Mr. Homan’s nomination without further delay.”

In an apparent shift from the barrage of delay tactics we have witnessed from Democrats with respect to President Trump’s nominees, the letter notes that “ICE has been without a Senate-confirmed Director since the first day of the Trump Administration, more than 14 months.” (Note: It’s actually been 15 months now.)  The letter pointedly states: “The absence of a Senate-confirmed head of ICE for more than a year hinders Congressional oversight and the efficient operation of the agency and is troubling in any circumstance.”

Senator Schumer, I couldn’t agree more.  The absence of Senate-confirmed nominees to key leadership posts throughout the executive branch is extremely troubling, and prevents those executive agencies from doing their jobs effectively.  While Mr. Homan announced yesterday that he has decided to retire from government service rather than become ICE Director, dozens of key executive branch positions remain unfilled because of unrelenting Democratic obstruction.

For example, at the Department of Justice, several Assistant Attorney General positions—which are the equivalent of Assistant Secretary level positions and oversee the DOJ’s various components—still remain vacant and are currently being run by acting career employees.

Brian Benczkowski, President Trump’s nominee to lead DOJ’s Criminal Division, was nominated on June 5, 2017—nearly a year ago. Mr. Benczkowski’s nomination has been pending on the Senate floor since September.

Jeffrey Clark was nominated to be Assistant Attorney General of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division on June 6, 2017 (329 days ago).  Mr. Clark’s confirmation hearing was last June, and his nomination has been pending on the Senate floor since August 3, 2017.

And Eric Dreiband, President Trump’s nominee to be Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, was nominated June 29, 2017 (306 days ago) and has been awaiting a vote from the full Senate since October 5, 2017.

These three highly qualified individuals are nominated to key leadership positions at the DOJ charged with overseeing litigation across the country and ensuring uniform policy nationwide.  In previous administrations, nominees to these posts were typically confirmed expeditiously because of their critical importance. But then in previous administrations, we didn’t see the unprecedented delay tactics that we have witnessed being leveled against so many of President Trump’s nominees, including time-consuming cloture votes that create a growing backlog of nominees waiting to be confirmed.

So let’s get to it, Senator Schumer.  When the Senate returns from recess next week, let’s confirm these nominees as quickly as possible and ensure “the efficient operation,” as you put it, of the DOJ and all of the other agencies that have been waiting an egregious length of time for key personnel.

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