Senate War Over Presidential Appointees Heats Up as Two Nominees Are Blocked

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 4: Incoming Chairman Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC) of the Congressional Black Caucus applauds during a swearing-in ceremony of caucus members in the 109th U.S. Congress at the Library of Congress January 4, 2005 in Washington, DC. The 109th Congress was sworn in January 4. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Michael Catalin
Add to Briefcase
Michael Catalin
Oct. 31, 2013, 10:32 a.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans blocked two White House nom­in­a­tions on Thursday, in­clud­ing Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to head the Fed­er­al Hous­ing Fin­ance Agency.

Watt’s nom­in­a­tion, which went down on a 56-42 clo­ture vote, was highly politi­cized be­cause the role in­cludes over­see­ing Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac. Con­ser­vat­ives, in­clud­ing the Club for Growth, op­posed the nom­in­a­tion be­cause they said it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for a politi­cian to fill such a role.

“I have said from day one that a tech­no­crat, not a politi­cian, should lead the FHFA, the reg­u­lat­or charged with over­see­ing the $5 tril­lion port­fo­li­os of Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac,” said Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn.

Re­pub­lic­ans also blocked the nom­in­a­tion of Pa­tri­cia Ann Mil­lett to be a judge on the U.S. Cir­cuit Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia by a clo­ture vote of 55-38. Sixty votes were needed to ad­vance the nom­in­a­tions.

Re­pub­lic­ans cited Demo­crat­ic at­tacks against a GOP ju­di­cial nom­in­ee, Peter Keisler, who was fili­bustered be­cause Demo­crats ar­gued there was a light work­load for the court and the po­s­i­tion did not need to be filled. So, the reas­on Demo­crats want to ap­prove Mil­lett now is polit­ics, Re­pub­lic­ans ar­gued.

“Our Demo­crat­ic col­leagues and the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sup­port­ers have been fairly can­did about it,” said Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky. “They have ad­mit­ted they want to con­trol the court so it will ad­vance the pres­id­ent’s agenda.”

The blocked nom­in­a­tions re­ignite a sim­mer­ing fight in the Sen­ate over wheth­er to change the con­firm­a­tion pro­cess to lim­it the minor­ity party’s abil­ity to block nom­in­a­tions.

Demo­crats re­acted furi­ously to the failed pro­ced­ur­al votes.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing that a sit­ting mem­ber of Con­gress with over 40 years of rel­ev­ant ex­per­i­ence was denied an up-or-down vote by a minor­ity of sen­at­ors today,” said Sen­ate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tim John­son, D-S.D., in a state­ment. “It is not a secret that this vote was pure ob­struc­tion­ist polit­ics at play.”

What We're Following See More »
FCC Tightens Internet Privacy Standards
11 hours ago

Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to tighten privacy standards for Internet service providers. "The regulations will require providers to receive explicit customer consent before using an individual’s web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes. The broadband industry fought to keep that obligation out of the rules."

Clinton Up 9 in USA Today Poll; Up 3 According to Fox
16 hours ago

A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll finds Clinton leads Trump by 9 points nationwide, 47% to 38%. A Fox News national poll has Clinton up just three points, 44% to 41% over Trump.

Cruz: Eight Justices Could Be an Ongoing Situation
18 hours ago

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that "there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices—appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election." Speaking to reporters in Colorado, Cruz said: "I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”

DNC Sues RNC Over Trump’s Rigged Vote Comments
21 hours ago

The Democratic National Committee sued the Republican National Committee in U.S. District Court in New Jersey for aiding GOP nominee Donald Trump as he argues that the presidential election is "rigged." The DNC claims "that Trump's argument is designed to suppress the vote in minority communities."

Clinton Foundation Staffers Steered Biz to Bill
1 days ago

"Two chief fundraisers for the Clinton Foundation pressed corporate donors to steer business opportunities to former President Bill Clinton as well, according to a hacked memo published Wednesday by WikiLeaks. The November 2011 memo from Douglas Band, at the time a top aide to Mr. Clinton, outlines extensive fundraising efforts that Mr. Band and a partner deployed on behalf of the Clinton Foundation and how that work sometimes translated into large speaking fees and other paid work for Mr. Clinton."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.