President Obama’s latest cabinet-level nominees are running into deep resistance in the Senate, pitching Democrats and Republicans into another tense standoff over White House appointments.
Just days after Republicans used Senate rules to block two nominees from moving to the next step in the confirmation process despite the fact that both have the support of a majority of senators, Democrats are planning to force committee votes without Republican consent.
If Democrats do push the nominees through to the full Senate, they would almost certainly set off a Republican filibuster, which would jeopardize the confirmations and, for now, leave vacancies at the top of two federal agencies.
Republicans have objected to the nomination of Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, citing what they said were her insufficient responses to their questions. They have also sought to block the labor secretary nominee, Thomas E. Perez, a lawyer in the Justice Department, on the grounds that he is too political.
A third nominee, Penny Pritzker, a wealthy hotel heiress and a top Obama fund-raiser who has more than two decades of corporate experience, has run into resistance since Mr. Obama put her name forward this month to be the next commerce secretary. Republicans are promising to scrutinize her family’s financial dealings, including their use of offshore accounts to reduce their taxes.
Nominees at all levels of Washington’s bureaucracy — 117 of them in all, including cabinet secretaries, judges and members of obscure oversight boards — are facing delays. Just last week, the Senate confirmed David Medine, the president’s choice to lead the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The time between his nomination and confirmation was 510 days. Every Republican voted no.
The true scandal isn't at the abandoned consulate compound in Benghazi or at the various IRS offices where selective investigations of 501(c)(4) organizations originated. The true scandal lies deep within the hallowed halls of Congress, where GOP legislators are intent on blocking just about every cabinet and agency appointment possible. It's not just to spite the president and roadblock as much of his agenda as possible, but also in an attempt to fulfill their insistence that "big government doesn't work" by making it stop work:
In doing so, Republicans are not breaking the rules of the Senate. They are, however, breaking the Senate itself, and harming the government. As with all legislative chambers, and in fact all democratic institutions, the Senate runs on a combination of formal rules and informal norms. But Republicans, by refusing to accept those norms, make it impossible for the normal machinery of government to function.
And remember that this is entirely unprecedented. Until very recently, simple majority confirmation was the norm on executive branch nominations with only a handful of exceptions. Not only that, but both Democrats and Republicans agreed that in almost all cases presidents were entitled to their choices when it came to these posts.
Unprecedented, but the GOP's made an exception for President Obama since his first day in office. No surprise here.
The surprise is how this story is getting buried underneath the Benghazi and IRS narrative. Well, maybe that's not a surprise, either. At any rate, you can bet your bottom dollar that those two stories will continue to be pushed hard and often by conservative news mavens. This one, on the other hand, won't rate any greater than typical Capitol Hill background banter.
Smartypants has the GOP pegged:
I suspect that any African American who has had success in this country will be able to relate to what is happening to the President right now. Every single move he makes is scrutinized and if he ever shows his humanity by making a mistake, he is likely to face impeachment.
We should all think about that and let it sink in. I'm sure the President is very aware of that fact. He is cautious by nature and that is probably one of the reasons he was able to become our first African American president.
But in this context, caution is called for. He's carrying a lot on his shoulders...more than is possible for me to even imagine. What he needs from us now is to keeps our heads together, focus on the long game, and remember that "no drama Obama" has always been the winning ticket.
Let the Republicans be the party of hysteria. That's what a beast in its death throes does. And to paraphrase what the President said to Mitt Romney..."Please proceed, Republicans."
So far, President Obama has done a marvelous job of letting the Republicans expose themselves as an obstinate, capricious and hysterical bunch. As long as the president continues on this track, he'll remain untouchable and the GOP will hopefully see itself as the Whigs saw themselves in their twilight years.