Republicans have been blocking votes on nominees to federal posts, taking longer to confirm President Obama’s nominees to executive agencies than nominees submitted by the previous three administrations. Due to these blocks, there is a backlog of 101 executive branch nominees that have yet to be voted on, ranging from the Transportation Safety Authority chief to members of the Marine Mammal Commission. Senators commonly issue “anonymous holds” to prevent a nomination from coming up for a vote.
Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) took aim at this tactic yesterday evening. Employing a “little-used rule adopted in 2007 that requires a Member to report his anonymous hold [on a federal nominee] in the Congressional Record [six days] after a colleague has tried to clear the name,” the two senators took to the Senate floor to try and clear the backlog and ask for unanimous consent for votes on scores of federal nominees.
As Whitehouse and McCaskill began reading the names of stalled federal nominees, the Republicans at first didn’t even appear. Whitehouse then waited patiently for a Republican Senator to arrive on the floor. Minority Whip Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) finally appeared and began objecting to the two senators’ unanimous consent requests, ultimately blocking votes on 97 nominees. The Huffington Post has assembled a video compilation of Kyl blocking Whitehouse and McCaskill’s requests. Watch it:
“Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll learn who it is in the Senate that doesn’t want them to be nominated, who it is that doesn’t want them to be confirmed,” McCaskill said afterwards. Because of the rule that McCaskill and Whitehouse employed, the senators who have placed the anonymous holds now have six legislative days before they have to reveal who they are to the Congressional Record. However, as the Huffington Post’s Ryan Gram and Ben Craw note, the senators “may be able to wiggle out of going public by dropping their holds and picking them right back up, or teaming up with other Republicans and swapping the holds back and forth. It’s never been tried before.”
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) has introduced a package of legislative reforms in the Senate that would eliminate the ability of senators to place anonymous holds.