EDITORIAL: Senate Democrats in disarray out of the gate

A disorderly minority in the Senate will only prove a boon to Trump by making Democrats look petty and inept

Jonathan Ernst—Reuters
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks with reporters after the weekly Senate Democratic caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Washington

New CIA director Michael Pompeo was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 66-32, with yea votes from 14 Democrats, Maine’s independent senator, and all but one Republican.
That’s the headline, but the details reveal less about Pompeo and more about Democrats’ challenges in being the opposition party to the White House for the first time in eight years.
Pompeo, formerly a U.S. Representative from Kansas, was confirmed Jan. 23. But the “vote to proceed” to consider his nomination passed 89-8 on Jan. 20. Republicans expected nomination fights, but they thought they had a deal to confirm Pompeo. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem, was frustrated by the petty delay tactics.
Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was joined by the Intel Committee’s vice chairman Sen. Mark Warner in approving of Pompeo. Warner, a Democrat, noted that while he and Pompeo “disagree on many issues… I support his nomination. I believe he can be a good leader for the CIA and will cooperate with the oversight of the (committee) and Congress.”
The hold-up was apparently that Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, couldn’t convince his fellow Democrats to let it go — especially Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.
Wyden, at least in Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s opinion, “wanted to delay it until today so presumably there would be less competition for air time on the evening news.” It certainly appears that way.
Wyden has long been an advocate for freedom from government intrusion by law enforcement (though not other forms of government intrusion). He has often made common cause with libertarian-minded politicians to oppose surveillance of citizens and other matters he deems antithetical to freedom. (The only Republican to vote against Pompeo’s nomination was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a true libertarian.)
Thus, Wyden had honest reasons to use the opportunity of the confirmation process to raise issues he thinks are important. But as the vote to proceed showed, he used the extra time for little more than political grandstanding and whipping his fellow Democrats — many of whom have voted in the past to authorize the same intelligence tools that Wyden has consistently opposed — to get a less lopsided confirmation vote.
As the theatrics were finally concluding, Burr took to the floor to vent about the unnecessary delays.
“In fact, there is a little game going on with Rep. Pompeo, and I think it is similar to what we are going to see with other nominees,” Burr said. “But let me tell you why this ought to be different. This ought to be different because of what is at stake. The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency should be somebody who is above reproach, somebody who understands that integrity is everything — not just with the Congress of the United States but with the employees of the CIA.
With the House overwhelmingly in GOP hands, a disorganized minority in the Senate will only prove a boon to President Donald Trump by making themselves look petty and inept. It has not been a strong start for the loyal opposition.
Drew Elliot and Ray Nothstine are members of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.