President Donald Trump is accusing Senate Democrats of slow-walking his nominees, but his blame is misplaced. It's the president who is lagging behind his predecessors in naming candidates for key government posts during his first five months in the office.
Trump has so far nominated 110 people for 559 positions, fewer nominations than each of the last four presidents, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. By comparison, Democrat Barack Obama had selected 252 nominees by early June 2009.
Thirty-six percent of Trump's nominees have been confirmed, compared with 59 percent Obama, the group's data show, suggesting that Trump indeed has had fewer nominees confirmed.
But blaming the Democrats in this case ignores the reality that Trump's fellow Republicans control the Senate, where nominations are confirmed. They run the committees and schedule, and changes in Senate rules engineered by Democrats in 2013 require only a simple majority to confirm nominees.
As part of a Monday morning tweetstorm, Trump wrote that Democrats "are taking forever" to confirm his nominees, including ambassadors. "They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals," he tweeted.
Democrats fired back. "If the president is looking for someone to blame on the slow pace of confirmations, he needs only to look in the mirror," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said only five would-be ambassadors are awaiting action out of dozens of slots to be filled.
"Your lack of nominations is the problem," Cardin tweeted in response to Trump's accusation.
Trump has said, for example, that he would nominate New York Jets owner Woody Johnson as ambassador to Britain but has yet to do so.
In the case of Callista Gingrich, Trump's pick to be ambassador to the Vatican, the administration has yet to submit all the required paperwork. Without it, the Republican-led Foreign Relations Committee can't schedule a confirmation hearing. Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, was nominated by Trump on May 25.
The committee only has Callista Gingrich's FBI background investigation. Her file is missing a committee questionnaire to be filled out by the nominee, financial disclosure forms and certifications regarding any potential conflicts.
"The president should get off Twitter and lead his team in sending more ambassadors and other crucial nominees to the Senate," said Sean Bartlett, Cardin's spokesman. "We're ready to do our job, but he needs to do his first. That's how the process works."
There are 188 ambassadorial positions. Roughly a third of the slots are filled by political appointees and the rest by career foreign service officers. Trump has made 11 ambassador appointments and five have been confirmed by the Senate, according to the American Foreign Service Association, which tracks such appointments.
Among Trump's nominees who have been approved by the Senate are Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations; Terry Branstad, ambassador to China; and David Friedman, ambassador to Israel.
By this time in Republican George W. Bush's presidency, he had submitted 202 nominees and 127 had been confirmed, according to the Partnership for Public Service. Democrat President Bill Clinton had nominated 207, with 161 confirmations. Republican President George H.W. Bush had nominated 155 and had secured 94 confirmations.