Democrats ready to block Trump nominees as protest against immigration order

FILE – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017.
FILE – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. AP

To protest President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily barring immigrants, refugees and visitors from seven countries, Senate Democrats are prepared to delay as long as they can the confirmation of some of his Cabinet nominees, a source close to Democratic leaders said Monday.

The Democrats want Republicans to join them in overturning, or even easing, the Trump order. While 11 Republicans have expressed reservations about the abrupt change in immigration policy, none have indicated so far they'll work with Democrats to weaken, change or repeal it.

Okay, counter the Democrats. Then, get ready for delays.

But Republicans aren’t budging. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., quipped Democrats are “always looking for a pretext to do what they’re going to do anyway.”

Tillis on Monday acknowledged Trump’s order initially negatively impacted green card holders and immigrants specifically granted entry to the U.S. in exchange for their work helping the military in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There were, I firmly believe, unintentional consequences that the administration recognizes and I believe they’re working through it,” Tillis said. “I think his heart was in the right place and we just gotta work through a couple of details.”

He added that Trump wasn’t obligated to inform or consult with Congress on the executive order.

“It probably could have been helpful,” Tillis said. “I’m not going to say that he should have.”

Monday, in the Senate’s first confirmation-related vote since Trump issued his order, Republicans won their bid to limit debate on ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s nomination as secretary of state. The Senate voted 56 to 43 Monday to limit debate to 30 hours, and Democrats plan to use every minute they can.

Tuesday, Trump plans to reveal publicly his pick for the Supreme Court – another nominee and another opportunity to obstruct confirmation votes if Democrats deploy such a strategy to try and induce Republican cooperation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he’ll oppose any Trump nominee who supports the executive order.

Over the weekend, Democratic members of Congress joined protests at airports and elsewhere nationwide in angry opposition to Trump’s order.

By Monday, Democrats tried to cast the executive order as irresponsible. Schumer, for example, argued the broad executive action – which proponents argue will improve national security – has already begun to be used by Islamic State terrorism organizers as propaganda against the United States. And, Schumer said, it alienates Muslims who want to help the U.S. fight ISIS.

While some Republicans seemed to agree Monday the roll-out of Trump’s executive order could have been handled better, there had little patience for Democrats who want to stall confirmation votes in protest.

“We’re moving ahead here ... We intend to see that vacancies are filled,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “I hope that people have the brains to realize these are important positions and we have to fill them. It’s that simple.”

Vice President Mike Pence has, so far, been instrumental in communication between Republican lawmakers and the Republican White House, Tillis said.

Pence and others from the administration have reached out to his office in recent weeks, Tillis said, and he’s “optimistic that we’re going to get far more consultations as (Trump) settles in to the role.”

Anna Douglas: 202-383-6012, @ADouglasNews