Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is attracting a great deal of attention for putting a “blanket hold” on all 70 of President Obama’s pending executive nominations in order secure pork for his state. According to congressional experts, Shelby’s hold is both a “rare” and “aggressive” abuse of his power.
Unsurprisingly, Shelby had quite a very different attitude when a Republican sat in the White House. In early ’05 — shortly after winning his fourth term to the Senate — Shelby complained, “Far too many of the President’s nominees were never afforded an up or down vote, because several Democrats chose to block the process for political gain.” He added, “Inaction on these nominees is a disservice to the American people.”
Shelby also pledged to do “whatever it takes” to confirm Bush’s judicial nominees. A vast majority of Bush’s appointees were confirmed in his first term, but a few controversial ones were filibustered by Democrats in the Senate.
One such nominee is former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, who Bush nominated more than two years ago to sit on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
With at least one Supreme Court vacancy expected in Bush’s next term, some Republicans are considering changing the rules of the Senate to force a vote, and likely confirm Bush’s appointees. Shelby said he’d support that option if Democrats continue to filibuster.
Later that year, the Senate struck a compromise to avert changing the filibuster rules. Shelby was quick to register his disapproval:
I do not think that any of us want to operate in an environment where federal judicial nominees must receive 60 votes in order to be confirmed. To that end I firmly support changing the Senate rules to require that a simple majority be necessary to confirm all judicial nominees, thus ending the continuous filibuster of them.
By invoking his “blanket hold” yesterday, Shelby is now forcing Senate Democrats to “secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold.” Unless, of course, Shelby is still “firmly” in favor of changing the Senate rules so that only 51 votes would be required to break his filibuster.