WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House complained that Senate Democrats are obstructing President Donald Trump's qualified nominees. Democrats countered that the administration has only itself to blame for the slow pace of filling vacancies.
The Senate has confirmed only 48 of 197 presidential nominations to agencies, and only two of 23 judicial nominees have been confirmed, the White House said.
"If the White House is looking for the cause of the delay, they need only look in the mirror," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "No administration in recent memory has been slower in sending nominees to the Senate."
Trump has failed to submit names for hundreds of vacant jobs, and the administration has submitted incomplete paperwork or delayed ethics forms for many other nominees, Schumer said. At least seven nominees for Cabinet or senior-level positions have withdrawn, including a nominee for labor secretary and two nominees for Army secretary.
Both sides stretched the point in attacking the other party. Trump has nominated far fewer people to top-level jobs than his immediate predecessors, while those who have been nominated have waited longer to be confirmed.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short accused Democrats of thwarting the will of the American people.
"Democrats even walked out of committee hearings to deny a quorum, like school children taking their toys from the playground. But it's the American people who are being hurt," Short said at a White House briefing.
Short complained that deputy secretaries remain unconfirmed at six Cabinet-level departments, including Defense, Energy, Interior and Health and Human Services.
A total of 32 nominees are waiting for a floor vote in the Senate, with 133 more waiting for consideration from various committees, Short said. Only 50 Trump nominees have been confirmed so far, compared to 202 officials confirmed at the same point in the Obama administration, he said.
Majority Republicans control the committees and the floor schedule, giving them the say on when nominees will be considered. Even so, Democrats have repeatedly forced time-consuming procedural votes to limit debate on Trump nominees, who have waited longer than previous nominees for confirmation.
A report by the Congressional Research Service said Trump had nominated only 242 people to key executive posts as of June 30, compared to 336 and 379 nominated in the same period by former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively.
The Senate had confirmed 186 Obama nominees by June 30, 2009, and 133 Bush nominees by June 2001, the report said.
Democrats have forced debate-limiting on Trump nominees 30 times, the White House said, compared to just eight such "cloture" votes on Obama nominees in 2009.
The nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service said Trump's nominees have waited an average 43 days for confirmation, compared with 35 days for Obama nominees and 24 days for those nominated by George W. Bush.
Short and other officials said they hope a slew of nominees are confirmed before Congress goes on its August recess, but raised the specter that the recess could be delayed if significant progress is not made.
"I think that the president has every right to call Congress back if necessary, because I think he'd made a very fair point that I believe that the Democratic obstruction is jeopardizing national security," Short said.
Schumer, as usual, had a response: "It's typical of the Trump administration: do something wrong and then blame someone else for your problem."
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.