On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration voted to move forward on the nomination of Texas attorney Trey Trainor to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), meaning that his nomination will proceed to the Senate floor for a full vote.
With senators spaced out in the hearing room for social distancing, the committee voted favorably on the nomination in a 9-1 vote along party lines.
The Democratic ranking member, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), was the only person to officially oppose the nomination, though she gave an unofficial “no by proxy” vote for the eight other Democrats on the committee who were not present.
The committee previously held a hearing on his nomination in early March.
Trainor is a Republican lawyer from Driftwood who has represented numerous influential clients in the state, including Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, the Texas Republican Party, the Texas Secretary of State, and President Trump’s campaign.
His appointment to the position would establish a quorum for the FEC, which has been short by three of its six total members since Commissioner Matthew Petersen vacated his seat last August.
To date, this is the longest period since the FEC was established that it has been without a quorum.
Under its current status, FEC staff are still able to collect and disclose campaign finance information, but the commissioners are unable to hold meetings, conduct and approve audits, or carry out investigations.
Although their terms have all expired, three members who were appointed under President George W. Bush still serve on the commission and can continue to do so until they are replaced by the Senate.
Republicans on the committee say that the appointment of Trainor would “reestablish parity between the two parties,” as Trainor would fill the second Republican seat in the FEC.
The other two current members include one Democrat and one Independent whose executive assistant has been recommended to be an FEC member by Senate Democrats.
“Trey Trainor’s confirmation would fill a vacancy, balance party representation, and, most importantly, allow the FEC to do its job,” said Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO). “Mr. Trainor is undoubtedly qualified for this position and I urge all of my colleagues to support his confirmation.”
Trainor has also been supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has previously stated that he has “been consistently impressed with [Trainor’s] commitment to the rule of law and his depth of knowledge of election law.”
In contrast, Democrats argue that Trainor is unsuitable for the position because of his views on campaign transparency.
“Mr. Trainor has consistently worked to dismantle the rules that keep corruption out of our political system,” Klobuchar said. “Our hearing in March showed that this nominee has spent his career arguing that people shouldn’t have to disclose political spending and working to stack the decks against voters by gerrymandering districts to dilute minority voting power.”
Trainor contends that his views on election laws are based on the Constitution.
“If the Senate votes to confirm me to this post, I will approach my work at the FEC in an objective and methodical manner,” said Trainor in his prepared remarks for the March hearing.
“I fully recognize that the touchstone for all regulation of political speech is the First Amendment, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that our current campaign finance regulations, particularly the disclosure regime, are an allowable exception to the First Amendment for the purpose of deterring corruption.”
“Accordingly,” said Trainor, “I will always look to the statutes as passed by Congress and adjudicated by the courts as my guide in reviewing the matters that come before me at the FEC to ensure that all parties are treated fairly and impartially.”
As of publishing, no details have been released as to when a vote on the nomination will take place on the Senate floor.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.