Barack Obama apparently went to Mitch McConnell and threatened a bunch of recess appointments unless the Senate would start confirming some of his nominees. Consequently 27 uncontroversial officials who were being held up for no reason got confirmed. But people who are being held up for a reason, no matter how stupid or petty the reason, are still in limbo. Thus the Shelby Shakedown continues and the Defense Department will still be doing without the services of three well-qualified appointees as Alabama’s least-horrible Senator continues his porking efforts. John Kyl is holding up a diplomatic appointment to a disarmament conference because Kyl loves out-of-control nuclear proliferation and wants to single-handedly sabotage the conference.
This is to say nothing of nominees like Craig Becker and Dawn Johnson who are being held up for ideological reasons. So the White House is touting this as a win, but I’m not totally sure what they’ve won. They had it within their power to put all 27 of these people in place with recess appointments and also circumvent the Shelby & Kyl holds with recess appointments and also put Becker & Johnson in office with recess appointments. The authority to do that is right there in the constitution. Given that 41 Senate Republicans are clearly going to hold up 100 percent of Obama’s legislative agenda anyway, I don’t see what else the White House has as a better use of its time than picking a fight over confirmations.