Democrats will seek to quickly pass legislation on tonight to rescind President Donald Trump’s travel ban from certain countries – a likely futile attempt they’re poised to use to justify prolonging consideration of several top Cabinet nominees.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday morning that he will be asking Senate Republicans to immediately consider legislation to rescind Trump’s executive order signed Friday night that caused confusion at major airports nationwide and set off a wave of global reaction – including a petition banning Trump from entering the United Kingdom and a ban on Americans entering Iran.
Criticizing Trump’s order on Monday morning, Schumer told NBC’s “Today” show, “It was done in such a sloppy and careless way. … It almost seems like back of the envelope.”
Asked what Democrats planned to do in response, Schumer said he would call later Monday for the immediate consideration of a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to rescind the order.
But that request is likely to be fruitless, given that Republicans would object to immediately consider such a measure and because there doesn’t appear to be sufficient GOP support to outright reverse Trump’s ban.
While a handful of Republican senators have expressed concerns, just seven – John McCain, Ariz., Jeff Flake, Ariz., Lindsey Graham, S.C., Ben Sasse, Neb., Susan Collins, Maine, Cory Gardner, Colo., and Dean Heller, Nev. – have said they’re opposed to the ban. If those five Republicans joined the chamber’s 48 Democrats in supporting the bill, that’s still not enough to clear various procedural hurdles that require 60 votes to overcome.
Even if Democrats fail to make their point on the Senate floor, they hope to galvanize growing public concern by holding a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday night. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have organized a rally for 6 p.m., an event that aides say was hatched over the weekend in a series of conversations between House and Senate aides and some lawmakers.
Stephen Miller, a top domestic policy adviser to Trump, defended the administration’s travel ban on Monday, describing it as “efficient, orderly, enormously successful.”
“In a world in which hundreds of millions of people would like to make America their home, it only makes sense that we engage in some kind of selections process that prioritizes the entry of people who, as the order stated, don’t hold bigotry, hatred or violence against any sexual orientation, against any race or against any particular class of people,” Miller told “CBS This Morning.”
Asked about growing public concern with the policy change, Miller said: “Anytime you do anything hugely successful that challenges a failed orthodoxy you’re going to see protests.”
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, unveiled her bill Sunday night. Several other Democratic senators, including Christopher Murphy, Conn., said they’re working on legislation to address Trump’s measure, which prevents people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days without a waiver.
“The president should not be able to take this type of action unilaterally, given the severity of the consequences,” Feinstein said in a statement announcing her legislation. “It’s one thing to screen people before they come to this country. We already do that. It’s quite another to say that individuals who are from a particular country, belong to a particular faith, or are refugees fleeing conflict are banned from the United States.”
Schumer said he would also seek to delay a scheduled vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as Trump’s secretary of state. He told NBC that senators deserve to hear Tillerson’s views on the travel ban before holding a vote. The Senate is set to hold a procedural vote on the confirmation on Monday night before holding a final up-or-down vote on Tuesday.
Murphy told The Washington Post on Sunday that Democrats must slow the consideration of all of Trump’s remaining Cabinet nominees in light of Trump’s travel ban.
“We should take every ounce of time that we’re allowed on these nominees, to talk about the disaster that has been the first week of this administration especially when it comes to foreign policy,” he said.
But again, Democrats would likely ultimately fail to derail confirmation of Trump’s nominees. While they can use procedural tactics to slow down the length of time it takes to confirm a pick, just 51 senators are needed to confirm a nominee. Republicans enjoy a 52-seat majority in the Senate.
On a call organized by MoveOn.org last night, ACLU political director Faiz Shakir encouraged activists to demand a Senate slowdown until President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and refugees were tacked back.
“We’ve got [Justice Department and Alabama Sen.] Jeff Sessions, who we’re told was involved somehow in the drafting of these executive orders,” said Shakir. “If they want to press this through, say: You don’t get an attorney general until you overturn the Muslim ban.”
Currently, Sessions’s nomination is scheduled for a Tuesday morning vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and expected to pass with every Republican voting in favor and every Democrat voting against. In the full Senate, only one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has suggested that he will vote for Sessions, whose nomination is being scored as a “key vote” by the National Rifle Association.
Even as they showed up at airports this weekend to join protests or attempt to free travelers subject to travel ban from detention, senators were challenged on their votes for Trump nominees. When Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., arrived at Dulles International Airport, and delivered a speech about “fighting this administration,” a protester yelled, “Will you block his nominees?
“I will be blocking, I will be fighting against many of their nominees, including an attorney general nominee who I believed was involved in this tonight,” said Booker.
That drew applause at the time, but Booker’s use of the word “many” led to criticism online. And the demands for rougher Democratic tactics are not limited to the party’s activist base. Shakir is a veteran of former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., office; Adam Jentleson, who was Reid’s former deputy chief of staff, argued in the Washington Post on Friday that Democrats should deny unanimous consent on Trump nominees, forcing Republicans to spend extra days debating them.
“With 48 senators in their caucus, [Democrats] have the votes to block most bills,” Jentleson wrote. “But even when Democrats don’t have the votes, they can force McConnell to spend time jumping through procedural hoops. This is the insight McConnell deployed against Reid to manufacture the appearance of gridlock, forcing him to use the cloture process more than 600 times.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Ed O’Keefe, David Weigel