NCPA Legisative Conference

GOP Senators Stall Obama's Nominations

by David Welna, National Public Radio

President Obama meets at the White House with top Senate Republicans and Democrats Wednesday. The subject is a nomination the president has yet to make: His choice for the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice John Paul Stevens.

Meanwhile, scores of other nominations that the president has made for key posts remain hostage to a Senate procedure known as the hold. Each one can take days to break. Senate Democrats went on the offensive this week to move those stalled nominations.

As the week began, 99 of Obama’s executive and judicial branch nominees were stalled by holds, in some cases for more than a year. A hold is essentially a threat to filibuster a nomination.

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says Republicans are simply trying to score political points against the president.

“This is not about controversial nominees,” Whitehouse says. “This is about politics, plain and simple. Bare-knuckled politics of obstruction.”

What it’s led to is a pile-up of nominations and a lot of bad blood.

“It is the worst ever,” says Paul Light, a presidential nominations expert at New York University.

He says dragging out confirmations is nothing new and both Democrats and Republicans have done it. But he says the current delays are unprecedented, and word has spread that the nomination ordeal is not worth it.

“What I hear is that two, three, four people are refusing invitations to serve before they get to one who’ll go through this process,” Light adds. “It has just become a very ugly process,very dispiriting.”

Take, for example, a nominee the Senate finally confirmed Tuesday. Half the Republicans and all the Democrats voted to confirm Lael Brainard as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for international affairs — 13 months after she was nominated.

Republicans raised questions about tax deductions she’d taken. Jim Bunning (R-KY) urged colleagues not to confirm her.

“This is not just a matter of taxes — it is a matter of trust,” Bunning said.

Unlike most of the current holds, Bunning’s was public.

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