If Democrats Wanted to Pick the Cabinet, They Should Have Won the Presidency

Want to know how much Washington has changed in eight short years? Check out these two stories describing the confirmation process of President Obama in 2009 as compared to President-elect Trump in 2017:

2009: “U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed Cabinet of top advisers seems headed toward swift U.S. Senate approval, with former presidential rival Hillary Clinton appearing a shoo-in for secretary of state.

Following a tradition in the treatment of incoming presidents, Obama’s fellow Democrats along with Republicans have made Senate confirmation of his Cabinet a top priority.

Most of Obama’s picks may be approved within days of the Illinois Democrat being sworn in as the 44th president at noon on Tuesday. A few are expected to be confirmed within hours of the inauguration. …

Members of both parties agree Obama’s proposed department heads need to be in place to help him hit the ground running as he confronts two wars, a deepening recession, an explosive Middle East and an estimated 46 million Americans without healthcare.”

2017: “Democratic senators plan to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March — an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.

Such delays would upend Republican hopes of quickly holding hearings and confirming most of Trump’s top picks on Inauguration Day. But Democrats, hamstrung by their minority status, are determined to slow-walk Trump’s picks unless they start disclosing reams of personal financial data they’ve withheld so far, according to senior aides.”

In case you’re keeping score at home – Republicans approved seven of President Obama’s cabinet selections on the day of his inauguration, while Democrats are “targeting” eight of Trump’s for a fight.

Why the sudden change? Why casually throw aside centuries worth of tradition? Simple. Democrats are upset that they’ve lost control of Washington and are desperate to assert some semblance of power.

“You know what this is about, John,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CBS’ John Dickerson, “the Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. I was in Senator Schumer’s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when your’e coming into a new situation, that the other guys won the election. What did we do? We confirmed seven cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in.”

“We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election,” McConnell continued.

Believe it or not, elections—as a democratic expression of the will of the people—matter. If Democrats want to be able to select cabinet appointees that will run the federal agencies in a way that suits them, well there’s only one way to ensure that: Win the presidency. Or, as Obama so forcefully put it:

“You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it. Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That’s not being faithful to what this country’s about.”

Exactly. Democrats should absolutely use the Senate hearings to dig into the candidate’s ability to adequately do the jobs they’re being hired to do. They should hunt for concerns and brings up any issues. And if something comes up that legitimate troubles them, then vote against the nominee. But if the only squabble is a disagreement over policy, then it’s time to swallow your pride, abide tradition, and allow Trump to surround himself with the best-and-the-brightest.

Or, as Sen. McConnell put it: “All of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that, but we need to sort of grow up and get past that.”