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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 21, 2022

Nomination Struggles in the Post-nuclear Senate

Emily M. Cottle and Jason M. Roberts
From the journal The Forum


Three times in the last decade Senate majorities have re-interpreted the rules of the Senate to limit the ability of Senate minorities to obstruct presidential nominees. Each of these invocations of the so called nuclear option have either reduced the threshold of votes needed to invoke cloture on a nominee or shortened the amount of post-cloture debate on nominees. In the current Senate, cloture can be invoked on nominees with a simple majority vote and most nominees are subject to only two hours of post-cloture debate. Despite these re-interpretations of the Senate’s rules, presidents are still struggling to secure confirmation for many of their nominees. As of this writing, fewer than 40% of President Biden’s nominations have secured confirmation, and more than 140 who have cleared committee are awaiting floor action in the Senate. We explore the factors that are inhibiting the confirmation process and discuss potential changes in the process that could expedite the confirmation of executive nominations.

Corresponding author: Jason M. Roberts, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA, E-mail:

Published Online: 2022-01-21

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