Senate Republicans are stalling several key Obama nominees, withholding confirmation of both cabinet members and judges. Democrats are once again threatening to change Senate rules to push the president's nominees through the process.
Republicans have dragged their feet on confirming Gina McCarthy as Environmental Protection Agency head, Tom Perez as Labor Secretary and Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray has been awaiting confirmation since 2011, but has yet to be confirmed because many Republicans want the agency to be led by a committee rather than one person. They are also holding up the president's ability to fill three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Democrats complain that Senate Republicans are purposefully delaying the process by asking nominees hundreds of questions during committee hearings and delaying floor votes when nominees eventually make it to that stage. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Republicans have gone back on the deal they made with Democrats in January, when Republicans said they would end obstruction of votes on nominees in return for Democrats agreeing not to change Senate rules. Last week Reid spoke on the Senate floor:
Not only have they failed to work with us to schedule votes on nominees in a timely manner, they are doing everything in their power to deny the President his team and undermine his presidency.
Republican obstruction has slowed down nearly every nominee that President Obama has submitted. Even Cabinet Secretaries have faced unparalleled procedural hurdles and Republicans are threatening to block many of them altogether.
Reid rejects the Republican use of the filibuster on nominees, requiring a 60-vote supermajority to confirm them. He has discussed the possibility of a "nuclear option," which would allow confirmation with a simple majority.
With the confirmation of another appointee to the D.C. Court of Appeals, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last week that Reid is trying to force a new precedent on the Senate.
"What I fear is the majority leader is working his way toward breaking his word to the Senate and to the American people, and blowing up this institution," McConnell said. "He wants to have no debate. 'Do what I say when I say it. Sit down, shut up. Or we'll change the rules. We'll break the rules to change the rules.'"
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