Skip to comments.Senators Acting Alone Can Block Nominees (ARE blocking Bush non judicial nominees)
Posted on 04/16/2005 7:53:35 PM PDT by FairOpinion
WASHINGTON - While the Senate is near open warfare over minority party filibusters of judicial nominees, senators acting alone are blocking some of President Bush's other choices for top government jobs with little protest.
Democratic senators have in place or are threatening to place "holds" on Bush's nominees to head three key agencies the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
In each case, the chokehold is being applied not to defeat the nomination but to raise an issue important to the objecting senator.
"I do this with a heavy heart and with much regret because I think Stephen Johnson is well qualified to head the EPA," Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said in announcing his decision this week to block a vote on Johnson.
Carper said he was acting because the EPA and the White House had ignored his request for an analysis of the economic, health and environmental impact of his alternative bill to Bush's clean-air plan.
His hold was a second shot against Johnson, a career EPA employee and otherwise non-controversial candidate for the top job. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., lifted their hold on the nomination only after Johnson agreed to cancel a pesticide study in Florida involving children.
Among other recent delaying actions:
_Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., say they will block a vote on Lester Crawford to head the FDA until the agency decides whether to allow over-the-counter sales of post-sex contraceptives.
_Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., says he won't allow a vote to confirm Rep. Rob Portman (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, as U.S. Trade Representative until Senate leaders agree to take up his bill on enforcing anti-subsidy laws against China and other non-market economies.
_Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., says he will block Treasury Department nominees because of recent department rulings that he says make it more difficult to sell farm products to Cuba.
Many Republicans are trying to change Senate rules so that judicial nominees can be confirmed by a simple majority rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome Democratic filibusters.
But Republicans also use holds when the political need arises.
Sen. Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record), R-Miss., whose state is home to threatened military bases, last month blocked a Senate vote on the nominee to head a base closing commission. Bush circumvented the hold by appointing all nine members of the commission while lawmakers were on their Easter recess.
Alabama's two Republicans senators, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, said Friday they were blocking Bush's choice for assistant secretary of the Army for civil works because they said the federal government was favoring Georgia in a decade-old fight over water.
Sen. Ron Wyden (news, bio, voting record), D-Ore., an opponent of holds, said they have become a "flagrant abuse of what was the historic basis" for the action, which was to put off a vote for a short time in respect to a senator who might be sick or need more information.
"It has now become one of the most powerful and least known tools in American government," Wyden said. More often than not, he said, holds are placed anonymously so other senators don't know who is preventing a nomination from going forward.
Wyden and Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, are behind legislation that would make those who put a hold on a nomination do it publicly. "I'm going to continue this fight until there is a new day of openness and accountability," Wyden said.
Sarah Binder, a Brookings Institution fellow who has testified to Congress on the issue, said there is no formal Senate rule on holds. They gained prominence because Senate leaders have increasingly turned to "unanimous consent" requests, which can be rejected with one dissenting voice, to advance legislation and nominees.
The Senate can overcome a hold through a time-consuming process and a motion requiring a 60-vote majority, but Senate leaders are reluctant to go that route in a 100-member body where interpersonal relations are so important.
"The hold is a mechanism to draw attention to what you really want," Binder said. "Quite often it really works."
So why aren't the Republicans telling this to the American people?
People don't like obstructionists -- they demonstrated by voting out Daschle and the Dems just found out from focus groups that people don't like their lack of cooperation about Social Security.
Good. Just to be safe let's shut down those agencies until these disputes can be resolved. Or until the year 2100. Whichever comes first.
Not a bad idea!
The rules of the Senate seem more idiotic than the rules of 43 Man Squamish. Sounds like a few changes should be in order.
Is a hold nothing more than the threat of a filibuster ?
It's even worse than that.
"More often than not, he said, holds are placed anonymously so other senators don't know who is preventing a nomination from going forward. "
The sentence in the article that was talking about the increasing use of "unanimous consent" requests is one of the things that bothers me the most about the Senate, and yet I have never read an article or heard anyone question the practice---
This is supposed to be "open" type government, and yet when the Senate is on C-span 2, some days they will be in a "quorum call" for hours and hours---quorum call is when (supposedly) the Senate is delaying for a speaker or to clarify something--
Anyway, after being on quorum call for hours and hours, a Senator will step up to his podium (usually Frist, but could be anyone) and start naming off Senate bills and amendments by number only, and say that it has been passed by "unanimous consent" which is shorthand for a behind the scenes agreement----but, none of the viewers know what they are doing and what they are agreeing to---
THAT is how the pork gets put in, and sometimes some bills that are passed in the House just disappear!!!
To me, that is just too convenient for the Senators regardless of party to play political games and spend out money without out knowledge and ability to make our opinions of certain bills known to our Senators..
Because the GOP is bankrupt as a force for Conservatism.
Correct. This Congress I call the "Two-Party Cartel". The elites tell these so-called conservatives just how far they can go toward a conservative agenda & when it gets close they pull their stings. If all of these conservative issue were sooo important to GW why did he sign the senior drug prescription bill, give Teddy an additional 11 Billion for a school system that is beyond help? Why doesn't GW get some passion & go to the people about the judicial mess? Doncha think a meeting with these RINOs separately with a consequence would be in store? This guy may be a good guy but he is no conservative & any promotion of the Klintoons makes him a traitor to MY conservative causes.
What a ChickenShiite! Would have been a lot smarter to try to influence who got on the BRAC commission. Or better yet, help the bases in his state make the best possible case. Still better, but unrealistic, close the bases we need the least, regardless of which state they are in.
If they don't get their way and their pet projects they will block the President's nominations for his administration???
Lott may have realized that actually fighting to save the bases was already a lost cause. Putting a hold on an action is often used only to delay an action, so the constituents may be told, "Hey, I tried my best".
In all the furor over the filibuster issue, I totally forgot the "hold" ability of the senators. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure this also applies to judicial nominees, which really tosses a monkey wrench into things.
I think the senators are limited to one hold each on a particular nominee, and the hold will expire after a specified time. Seems that I remember there was an opportunity for one extension. What if senators can stack their holds, so, as one expires, another is placed immediately?
These were used rarely, and not for partisan reasons, IIRC. The bitterness existent now, IMO, means that the Dems have another tool available to frustrate the judicial appointment process. Changing the filibuster rules won't affect the Dems' use of holds.
Maybe that's part of the reason Frist has tried to negotiate the filibuster issue with Reid, and why Reid has been so arrogant in promising total obstruction. Could be a lot tougher than just getting 51 votes.
Maybe because Republican Trent Lott blocked a Senate vote on the nominee to head a base closing commission, and that Republican Jeff Sessions and Republican Richard Shelby are blocking the President's choice for assistant secretary of the Army for civil works?
And maybe the American people should know ALL of this, so they can instruct their representatives accordingly.
Of course there's little protest coming from Bush. That would be "divisive".
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