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July 31, 2014

Posts in "Nominations"

July 28, 2014

As Ted Cruz Lifts Hold, Diplomats Have a Chance at Confirmation (Video)

judiciary007 052114 445x291 As Ted Cruz Lifts Hold, Diplomats Have a Chance at Confirmation (Video)

( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s a chance at least some of the ambassadors caught in a legislative holding pattern might be confirmed before the August recess.

While the process of filling the diplomatic corps has been slow in the aftermath of the “nuclear option” standoff last fall, Sen. Ted Cruz said Monday that he had withdrawn his more recent objection.

The Texas Republican had placed a hold on State Department nominees — a move with limited utility in the post-nuclear Senate where Democrats can break filibusters without any GOP votes. Cruz had placed the hold because of last week’s brief Federal Aviation Administration ban on flights by U.S. carriers to Tel Aviv, Israel.

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July 23, 2014

Cruz Threatens to Delay State Department Nominees Over FAA’s Israel Flight Ban

gop sens005 101613 445x287 Cruz Threatens to Delay State Department Nominees Over FAAs Israel Flight Ban

(Tom William/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz announced late Wednesday that he would hold up State Department nominees over a moratorium on U.S. flight traffic to Tel Aviv.

As a practical matter, the move by the Texas Republican may not mean much, since a slew of ambassador nominees are already tied up in an existing logjam. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working the phones in an attempt to get diplomats through to confirmation.

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July 21, 2014

Nomination Backlog Frustrates Administration, Democrats as August Looms

A pileup of nominations — particularly for scores of would-be U.S. ambassadors — has the Obama administration pushing hard for Senate action ahead of the August recess, while senators want to get home to campaign before the midterms.

There are 224 executive and 29 judicial nominations awaiting Senate action, according to the White House, including many whose lives have been on hold for a year or more. The Senate last year used the “nuclear option” to change the rules so a simple majority can confirm most nominations — and that move has shrunk the judicial backlog.

But a backlog has built up in executive branch nominees, including 56 ambassadors.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to voice concern over the pileup, and a State Department spokesman said the former Massachusetts senator was expected to speak by phone with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday while traveling in the Middle East.

“We hope the Senate will come to agreement to confirm nominees before heading into recess,” Assistant Secretary Doug Frantz said in a statement Monday. ”There is plenty of time remaining in July to do so, particularly if they can reach an agreement to approve the career nominees in a block as Secretary Kerry has proposed.”

“We are redoubling our efforts on ambassadors,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats are about to threaten the August break to confirm them.

“These ambassadors are America’s front lines, fighting to defend our interests abroad — our security interests, our national interests, and our economic interests,” Reid said last week. ”Right now, there are gaping holes in our nation’s front lines. … A quarter of all American embassies are without an ambassador.”

After the rules change, Republicans retaliated by slow-walking numerous nominees; the rules change allowed a simple majority to advance nominees but kept in place time limits that allow Republicans to force Democrats to burn days of floor time to get to a final vote.

“Some Senate observers say that Republicans are stalling these nominations as payback for the rules changes instituted by the Senate,” Reid said. “Let me see if I can wrap my head around this — Republicans are stalling executive nominees vital to our national security to get back at Democrats? To get back at me? Stalling these nominees is jeopardizing America’s interests abroad. It is damaging our nation’s role in global affairs. It is damaging our national security. Is this conjured-up political retribution worth harming the U.S.?”

Republicans say Democrats only have themselves to blame.

“Their complaint assumes there should be no consequences for Majority Leader Reid breaking the rules of the Senate to change the rules on the processing of nominations,” the Senate Republican Policy Committee wrote in an issue brief. “The consequences of that act were predictable. Senator Obama predicted the consequences himself when a rules change was contemplated in 2005, saying, ‘If they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse.’”

The nominations backlog in the ambassadorial ranks has been a recurring topic of discussion at the regular State Department press briefings in recent weeks.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki likened the Kerry proposal to accelerate career appointees to the way the Senate treats military promotions.

“And just to not to put too fine a point on it, obviously for America to continue to play a strong role in the world, we need equal treatment for diplomats, we need to have ambassadors and our representatives on the front lines in these countries around the world,” she said on July 9.

Asked if the nuclear option has contributed to the backlog, Psaki dismissed the contention.

“There has been a logjam in the Senate on the Senate floor about nominations and legislation long before … Majority Leader Reid moved forward with the nuclear option several months ago. That was put in place because there was a complete deadlock on getting anything done in the Senate at all,” she said.

Democrats have also highlighted delays of top veterans’ officials — some waiting more than a year for confirmation even as the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs unfolded.

Numerous other would-be officials are awaiting their fate. If they don’t get confirmation before the August recess, they’ll be waiting months longer for confirmation — or be stalled forever — given that the Senate will have a limited schedule before the November elections and faces a lame-duck session where floor time will be at a premium.

At some point, Senate Democrats could deploy the nuclear option again to cut down on what the Senate aide calls the “slow-motion temper tantrum.”

At the beginning of this Congress in January 2013, the chamber adopted a bipartisan agreement that reduced the post-cloture debate time for certain nominations. That agreement will expire at the end of the year.

If they manage to maintain the majority, Democrats would have to either negotiate time rules with Republicans or use the nuclear option again.

Given the mounting frustrations, “If it comes to a head, the caucus will be more supportive,” the aide predicted.

Correction 6:42 p.m.

An earlier version of this post misattributed the quote from the Republican Policy Committee.

 

July 17, 2014

Senate Set to Confirm Ambassador to Possible Malaysia Airlines MH17 Crash Investigator (Video) (Updated)

Updated 6:59 p.m. | The Senate is set to confirm a new U.S. ambassador to an international body that’s been responsible for investigating airplane crashes such as Malaysia Airlines MH17.

Roll Call reported on the vacancy earlier Thursday, and now the Senate has reached an agreement for a Monday evening vote on confirmation.

That’s as the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight in Eastern Ukraine reported to have had Americans on board may require an independent investigation. As reported by Roll Call’s Five by Five, U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization, which investigated the 1983 shoot-down of a Korean Air Lines flight, has a nominee awaiting Senate confirmation.

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July 16, 2014

Ronnie White Reaches Federal Bench — 17 Years Later (Video)

Roughly 17 years after first being nominated, Ronnie L. White is finally on his way to becoming a federal judge in Missouri.

The Senate confirmed White, 53-44, to a seat in the Eastern District of Missouri after limiting debate earlier in the day with 54 affirmative votes, short of the 60 that used to be required for cloture before Democrats used the “nuclear option” in 2013 to effectively change the rules.

White’s nomination during the Clinton administration eventually fell on a party-line vote in 1999, 45-54. Republicans had the majority in the Senate at that time. Ahead of Wednesday’s action, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called the original vote “a grievous error.”

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June 26, 2014

Supreme Court Strikes Down Obama’s Recess Appointments

A unanimous Supreme Court struck down President Barack Obama’s disputed recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, saying that the Senate was not technically in recess because it was holding pro forma sessions.

“For purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause, the Senate is in session when it says that it is, provided that, under its own rules, it retains the capacity to transact Senate business,” the court ruled in the case of NLRB v. Noel Canning. “This standard is consistent with the Constitution’s broad delegation of authority to the Senate to determine how and when to conduct its business, as recognized by this Court’s precedents.”
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June 23, 2014

Senators Seek More Information About Targeted Killings With Drones (Video)

wyden 009 040114 445x308 Senators Seek More Information About Targeted Killings With Drones (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two Senate Democrats want the public to know more about the rules behind the targeted killing of American citizens using drones.

“I believe every American has the right to know when their government believes it is allowed to kill them, and the public release of this memo is a positive step toward reducing the secrecy that surrounds this question,” Sen. Ron Wyden said in a statement. “However, there are many important questions that this memo does not address.”

Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who serves on the Intelligence Committee, was responding to the disclosure of a redacted form of a controversial 2010 Justice Department memo authorizing a lethal drone strike against Anwar al-Awlaki. The memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel was released under court order from the New York-based Second Circuit.

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May 22, 2014

Drone Memo Author David J. Barron Confirmed by Senate (Video)

The Senate narrowly confirmed David J. Barron, the author of a controversial memo justifying drone attacks on American citizens, to a circuit court judgeship Thursday. Full story

McConnell Wants to Keep Filibuster if GOP Gets Majority

USA OBAMA SPEECH WAS35 61A4612DD26E4BBE85A4D3F83764EF52 445x295 McConnell Wants to Keep Filibuster if GOP Gets Majority

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t favor getting rid of the filibuster — even if the GOP takes the majority next year. But he stressed that Democrats have set a precedent for changing the Senate rules on a simple majority vote.

“I think the supermajority requirement in the Senate has been important to the country,” McConnell said, adding that he believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has done “a lot of damage” to the institution. Full story

May 21, 2014

Paul Predicts Democrats Will Back Barron, Doesn’t Plan Extended Speech (Updated) (Video)

paul 023 030513 445x298 Paul Predicts Democrats Will Back Barron, Doesnt Plan Extended Speech (Updated) (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:15 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul wore comfortable shoes to work today, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to hold the floor for hours.

The Kentucky Republican told a small cadre of reporters gathered just off the Senate floor following a 31-minute speech contesting the Obama administration’s use of drones for targeted killings of Americans that he didn’t think he could stall confirmation of David J. Barron to be a First Circuit appeals court judge.

“They wouldn’t give me the extensive time today,” Paul said. “I am going to speak probably right before the vote and try to convince some people. I don’t think I’m having much luck though.”

Full story

May 20, 2014

Rand Paul to Take the Floor to Again Contest Drone Policy, White House to Release Memo (Updated)

Paul 01 030613 445x295 Rand Paul to Take the Floor to Again Contest Drone Policy, White House to Release Memo (Updated)

Paul appears set to take the floor to again protest drone policy. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:25 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul intends to take the Senate floor Wednesday to contest the nomination of David J. Barron to be a federal appeals court judge, though it doesn’t appear the Kentucky Republican will halt Barron’s confirmation.

That’s in part because the White House plans to release the legal justification for the government’s use of unmanned drones to target U.S. citizens, according to Sen. Mark Udall.

“This is a welcome development for government transparency and affirms that although the government does have the right to keep national security secrets, it does not get to have secret law,” the Colorado Democrat said in a statement. “I am proud the Administration appears to have heeded my call and committed to abide by a recent Second Circuit Court ruling and publicly release this memo. With this decision, I am now able to support the nomination of David Barron to the federal bench.”

It’s unclear exactly how long Paul plans to speak about Barron and the drone program Wednesday, but staffers around the Capitol are preparing for a late Wednesday session.

The drone issue is the same subject that prompted last year’s the #standwithrand filibuster of John O. Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director. Barron wrote memos justifying the Obama administration policy when he served as acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

“I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the President has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat,” Paul plans to say on Wednesday, according to an excerpt from his office. “I rise today to say that there is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and that any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a President is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court.” Full story

Reid Hints at ‘Nuclear’ Summer Over Debate Time (Video) (Updated)

reid 225 032614 445x294 Reid Hints at Nuclear Summer Over Debate Time (Video) (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:30 p.m. | On the morning of his Republican counterpart’s primary back home in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would not change the chamber’s rules in his absence.

But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell might well be advised to be prepared for another floor standoff over consideration of nominations, even if its unclear just how much the

Reid took to the floor to reprise familiar complaints about GOP delays of nominations, although some of his examples didn’t appear to be held up today.

“I don’t plan on changing the rules today again, but how much longer can we put up with this? Even law enforcement officers … even law enforcement officers, as I’ve indicated here, they’re holding them up for no reason,” Reid said. “You don’t hear people coming down here giving speeches about what horrible people the president selected to be the U.S. attorney in Louisiana, New Mexico and Connecticut, not a word. They just hide behind their obstruction.”

But not long after, the Senate locked-in a unanimous consent agreement setting up consideration of the three U.S. attorneys on Wednesday, with confirmation for each possible by voice vote.

Full story

May 19, 2014

Lewis Opposition to Boggs Judicial Nomination Could Be Final Blow

lewis 131 062513 445x296 Lewis Opposition to Boggs Judicial Nomination Could Be Final Blow

Lewis said he opposes the Boggs nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A House member coming out against a judicial nomination wouldn’t normally be a fatal blow, but Rep. John Lewis isn’t just any House member and Michael P. Boggs isn’t just any nominee.

The Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader’s forceful statement Monday could torpedo Boggs, the key to a larger deal cut by the White House with Georgia’s two Republican senators for a slate of judges. Full story

John Lewis Opposes Boggs Nomination (Updated)

lewis 131 062513 445x296 John Lewis Opposes Boggs Nomination (Updated)

Lewis announced Monday he opposes Boggs’ nomination to be a federal judge. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:38 p.m. | Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said Monday he opposes the confirmation of Michael P. Boggs to become a federal judge, jeopardizing the nomination in the Senate.

Boggs, who has been a state judge for the last 10 years, has come under fire for votes as a Georgia legislator between 2001 and 2004, including a vote keep the Confederate insignia on the Georgia state flag, another to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and a vote for a public registry of abortion doctors.

Here’s Lewis’ statement:

WASHINGTON — “I have fought long and hard and even put my life on the line for the cause of equal rights and social justice. My commitment to these ideals has never changed, and my record is solid and unwavering. I take a back-seat to no one and have been at the forefront for decades in defense of the right to marry, a women’s right to choose, and the imperative of non-violence as a means of dissent. I have worked tirelessly to rid Georgia, the South, and this nation from the stain of racial discrimination in any form, including the display of Confederate emblems in the Georgia state flag. I am not about to change that position now.

“I have tried to refrain from making public statements out of respect for my colleagues and the Senate process. I believe it is important to allow each candidate to be evaluated according to his or her own merits and to allow the Senate judicial nomination process to take its course. This willingness to permit due process is all that I have indicated in any conversation I may have had with my colleagues. I did not at any time indicate my support for the Boggs nomination or say that he had the backing of the African American community in Georgia.

“Based on the evidence revealed during this hearing, I do not support the confirmation of Michael Boggs to the federal bench. His record is in direct opposition to everything I have stood for during my career, and his misrepresentation of that record to the committee is even more troubling. The testimony suggests Boggs may allow his personal political leanings to influence his impartiality on the bench. I do not have a vote in the Senate, but if I did I would vote against the confirmation of Michael Boggs.”

Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., had lashed out at Lewis following comments from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., indicating that Lewis backs a deal with Georgia’s two GOP senators that would confirm embattled judicial nominee Michael P. Boggs.

.@nielslesniewski @jbendery @SenFeinstein

if this is true, then Rep Lewis is a turncoat who has betrayed African Americans, women and gays

— David Scott (@repdavidscott) May 18, 2014

In Dec I joined Revs CT Vivian, Joe Lowery at a press conf opposing #Boggs – I have not changed my views like a turncoat @AdvoForAction

— David Scott (@repdavidscott) May 18, 2014

Full story

May 18, 2014

Dianne Feinstein: John Lewis Thinks Georgia Judge Deal With Boggs ‘Was a Good Ticket’

luncheons013 041813 445x297 Dianne Feinstein: John Lewis Thinks Georgia Judge Deal With Boggs Was a Good Ticket

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maybe Michael P. Boggs still has a chance to become a federal judge in Georgia.

A senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday that John Lewis, the Georgia Democratic congressman and civil rights leader, thought a deal between the White House and Georgia’s GOP senators to fill a variety of federal judgeships provided for “a good ticket.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” if she would vote against Boggs or seek to block his ascension to the federal bench.

“Well, not at this stage,” Feinstein said, before expanding on her answer.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 2:15 p.m.
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