During a White House press conference this morning, President Obama responded to a question about whether he believes Elizabeth Warren could survive a Senate confirmation process. Warren has been rumored to be Obama’s leading nominee to head the Consumer Finance Protection Agency. In responding to the prospects of a Senate confirmation fight, Obama slammed the GOP for “playing games” with his nominees:
QUESTION: Are you unofficially concerned about a Senate confirmation?
OBAMA: [...] I am concerned about all Senate nominations these days.
QUESTION: But with respect to Elizabeth Warren, are you –
OBAMA: Hans, I wasn’t trying to be funny. I am concerned about all Senate nominations these days. I’ve got people who have been waiting for six months to get confirmed who nobody has an official objection to and who were voted out of committee unanimously, and I can’t get a vote on them.
We’ve got judges who are pending. We’ve got people who are waiting to help us on critical issues like homeland security. And it’s very hard when you’ve got a determined minority in the Senate that insists on a 60-vote filibuster on every single person that we’re trying to confirm, even if after we break the filibuster, it turns out that they get 90 votes. They’re just playing games. And as I think Senator Voinovich said very well, it’s time to stop playing games.
The President is right. Since he took office, Republicans have abused a Senate rule which prevents the Senate from confirming more than a tiny fraction of Obama’s nominees unless its members unanimously consent to allowing the nomination to move forward. Specifically, even the majority breaks a filibuster, the minority can force up to 30 hours of additional debate on the nominee before a final vote can be held. Thirty hours may not seem like a lot, but when you multiply it across the hundreds of judges, ambassadors and other officials that require Senate confirmation, there is literally not enough time to confirm more than a fraction of these nominees. In other words, the Republicans are engaged in unprecedented use of this obscure loophole to hollow out the government and the federal bench — leaving the nation without essential judges, financial regulators and even national security officials in the process.