Texas elections expert James E. “Trey” Trainor III received a hearing before the U.S. Senate, 910 days after being nominated to the Federal Election Commission by President Donald Trump. Recent departures from the FEC means the regulatory body currently does not have a quorum for conducting business – hearing complaints, issuing election advisory opinions, or conducting investigations.
Once Trainor is confirmed by the Senate, the FEC will have a quorum.
“Without a quorum, the FEC can do exactly nothing,” said U.S. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who chairs the Rules & Administration Committee, in opening the hearing.
The committee is not expected to vote on the nomination until next week, and confirmation by the full Senate is not expected for several weeks after that. Nominees are explicitly chosen based on their partisan affiliation. Trainor has served as legal counsel for numerous Republican officials and conservative groups, including Empower Texans and Texas Right to Life. He also advised the president’s campaign in 2016.
Appearing before the Senate’s Rules & Administration Committee, Trainor said that as a member of FEC his obligation would be to uphold the law and ensure “all parties are treated fairly and impartially.”
Interestingly, the Democrats focused their attacks on Texas’ various redistricting fights even though the Federal Election Commission does not deal with redistricting issues.
Standard practice has been for FEC nominees to be paired between the parties, but the Democrats have delayed putting forward qualified candidates for the president’s nomination. In her opening statement, former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) predictably accused the Senate’s GOP leadership of partisanship. Her attacks on Trainor boiled down to his defense of the First Amendment rights of citizens to engage in politics.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pushed back on Klobuchar’s assertion, noting that Trainor’s confirmation would “re-establish parity” on the commission’s partisan imbalance while it will also restore the quorum for business.
Regarding the commission’s business, Trainor said he felt the history of deadlocked decisions “are not helpful” and that he would seek to “work with the other commissioners to find consensus when there is a violation” of federal campaign law.
Trainor is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M School of Law. An Army veteran, Trainor and his family live in Driftwood.