Yesterday, the Senate rejected President Obama’s nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker, even though he received a majority 52 votes. Because Becker’s nomination was subject to a filibuster by Republicans and a few Democrats, Obama was thwarted in his effort to staff the U.S. government with his nominee. Becker also was the target of intense lobbying by business groups.
Senate Republicans have used parliamentary tactics to hold up the confirmation of critical administration nominees to an unprecedented degree. Yesterday, Obama warned that “if the Senate does not act,” he would be forced to make recess appointments to fill critical jobs, because “we cannot allow politics to stand in the way of a well-functioning government.”
Calling the holds “unfair,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate floor last night to give a withering attack of Republican obstructionism and urge Obama to recess appoint “all” of his blocked nominees:
REID: I mean it’s disgraceful. The Republicans are holding these people up for reasons that have nothing to do with their background, morality [or] competency of these people. … I think, frankly, the President should recess [appoint] all of them. All of them. He has been given very little recognition for the importance of the job that he has trying to find the best people in America to fill this position. No one can say Democrats did this when we were in the minority — we didn’t do this. There were people that were held up, but this something that is beyond the pale.
Watch a complication of Reid and Obama’s comments:
Indeed, one year into Obama’s term, 177 nominees remained unconfirmed — thanks to an “unusual number of holds” — including “dozens” of national security appointments. One year into President Bush’s term, there were only 70 appointees awaiting confirmation. Much of this obstructionism has been for political gain, such as Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) recent attempt to hold 70 nominees hostage for billions of dollars in pork for his state.
While the Senate is given the right to “advise and consent” on nominees, as Catholic University Law Professor Victor Williams notes on the Huffington Post, the president’s right to make recess appointments is “textually based, historically supported, and has been upheld by numerous court opinions.” The Founders gave the president the ability to make recess appointments recognizing that “the president must keep the government fully staffed,” regardless of partisan posturing.