Resentment over Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s stewardship of the Senate boiled over Thursday, with more than two-thirds of the chamber circumventing the leader in backing a bipartisan proposal to speed up the pace of voting.
In total 68 lawmakers — 35 Republicans and 33 Democrats — have signed onto a proposal by Sen. Thom Tillis that would curtail the time allotted for voting on legislation and nominations.
Mr. Tillis, North Carolina Republican, began circulating the proposal this week after the Senate took roughly 50 minutes each to approve three of President Biden’s judicial nominees.
Mr. Schumer was informed of the proposal and its support via letter on Thursday.
“Despite our collective efforts to encourage members to vote on the Senate floor in a timely manner, voters are often left open well beyond the allotted time, frustrating a majority of members from both sides of the aisle,” the letter reads. “Often, the outcome of the votes is not in doubt.”
The 68 lawmakers informed Mr. Schumer that they would instruct the Senate’s “presiding officer to close any vote in which” one of them was the “last remaining vote,” provided the final outcome would not be changed.
Similarly, the presiding officer would be instructed that any particular vote could be kept open if one of the 68 lawmakers requested so.
The proposal is a direct rebuke of Mr. Schumer, who as majority leader has the prerogative to enforce strict time limits for votes.
The majority leader’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the past, votes on legislation and nominees usually took about 15 to 30 minutes. Under Mr. Schumer’s leadership, the time allotted for individual votes has skyrocketed.
“I’ve never seen a more inefficient process in the world,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman.
Mr. Schumer, for his part, says Republicans are to blame for the slow pace. The majority leader claims that time is eaten up by GOP senators forcing recorded votes on legislation and nominees, rather than just letting them pass by a voice count.
“Most of these votes in the old days would have just occurred by voice,” Mr. Schumer said. “But our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, just a handful, are making us vote, even for circuit judges.”
The push for a voice vote on non-controversial legislation and nominations is itself controversial. A voice vote is disliked on both sides because it allows for measures to advance with as little as one lawmaker on the Senate floor.
Opponents say the practice is not only unfair, but also shrouds Congressional deliberations in secrecy. A recorded vote, which requires lawmakers to trudge to the Senate floor and cast their vote in-person, is more transparent, they say.
The proposal backed by Mr. Tillis and two-thirds of the Senate chamber has garnered widespread support because it keeps transparency intact while limiting the time allotted for voting.