Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 30, 2015

Holds Lose Their Power in Senate

Sen. Rand Paul

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a post-nuclear Senate, holds on nominees aren’t what they used to be. And Republicans’ newfound powerlessness to stop President Barack Obama’s picks is starting to get to the GOP.

Take, for instance, Sen. Rand Paul’s opposition to the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general. The Kentucky Republican has blasted Murthy’s pro-gun-control views, as well as his involvement with the campaign operation Doctors for Obama.

“As a physician, I am deeply concerned that he has advocated that doctors use their position of trust to ask patients, including minors, details about gun ownership in the home,” Paul said in a Wednesday letter announcing an intended hold on the nomination.

Up until the “nuclear option” deployment last year, Paul could have blocked the Murthy nomination by mustering the support of Republican senators and getting the 41 votes needed to sustain a filibuster. That’s no longer the case. Now, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., can get almost anyone he’d like confirmed with only votes from his own caucus, though he may have to overcome procedural obstacles that eat up precious floor time.

To the extent holds still have value, it may be in generating headlines for Paul and others as they blast out press releases announcing their intentions — as Paul did for Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen.

Paul told Sean Hannity on Tuesday night that he is well aware of his diminished leverage.

“We’ll do what we can to filibuster it, but you realize Harry Reid destroyed the filibuster. There is no filibuster. So when he took over and broke the rules last year, to change the rules, he got rid of the filibuster on nominations,” Paul said on Fox News. “So we can object, we can vote against him, we can tell the public that we don’t think it’s a good idea to politicize the position of surgeon general, but ultimately, he will have the power to roll over us because right now, the Senate operates under the iron-fisted rule of one man, Harry Reid. What he says is what goes.”

It isn’t just a question of ideology. Sen. John McCain has been particularly vocal about the precedent changes undermining the ability of senators to get questions answered before confirmation.

Speaking with reporters after an Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing Tuesday, the Arizona Republican blasted the preparation of Obama’s choice to be deputy Defense secretary, Robert Work. Work is a former undersecretary of the Navy.

In McCain’s view, Work should have reviewed a Government Accountability Office report criticizing the Littoral Combat Ship program, of which McCain has long been a critic. While McCain’s palpable frustration with Work has led him to place a hold on the nomination, he knows that Reid and other Democrats can work around the objection using the debate-limiting cloture process.

“Usually people come before the committee prepared,” McCain said. “Now, because of the nuclear option, they don’t have to care. They don’t have to care because they know that they can override any objections that we have.

“This is the best example I can tell you of the results of the nuclear option,” McCain continued, adding later in the day Tuesday that “now we will see less and less qualified people nominated by the president of the United States without that burden.”

In an exchange that’s gone viral on the Internet, McCain exposed the knowledge gap of Obama’s pick to be the next ambassador to Norway, a political contributor to the president.

Nominee George Tsunis badly bungled a question about the Progress Party, saying it was among “fringe elements” when it is actually a political party within the Norwegian coalition government. Appointing campaign backers to plum diplomatic posts is nothing new, but the exchange between McCain and Tsunis was particularly remarkable.

Since Republicans are reluctant to agree to unanimous consent requests to speed up nominations, particularly for the federal bench, in the aftermath of the nuclear option debate, Reid said Tuesday he would soon file cloture to move the nominations along.

“It is a waste of the taxpayers’ time to go through the process we have been going through,” Reid said. “We are going to, in the near future, file cloture on all of them. If that is what the Republicans want us to do, then that is what we will do. The American people will see the colossal waste of time we have been going through, not only on district court judges but circuit court judges and all nominations.”

Some Democrats and outside groups favoring more streamlining of the Senate’s procedures want Reid to go further than he did with the most recent use of the nuclear option, perhaps further curtailing post-cloture debate time to make it easier to clear the nominations backlog. McCain rejected that idea.

“If Sen. Reid wants to destroy the United States Senate, he can do that, but his place in history will be badly tarnished,” McCain said.

Of course, he made similar pronouncements before Reid pulled the nuclear trigger last year.

Kerry Young contributed to this report.

  • Freedomswatch

    What goes around comes around. Whatever they do to Republicans now, Republicans should do ten-fold to them when they regain the Senate.

    • BillBuckley

      So, by your logic, you approve of the move by Harry Reid.

      • toomanyairmiles

        Anyone with any sense of democracy should approve of Reid’s move. The senate in particular has been profoundly abused by the Republican’s to stymie any agenda the Democrats and Obama Administration would like to move on. On it’s face these moves are fundamentally anti-constitutional and anti-democratic.

        If the Republican’s would like their agenda to proceed all they need to is win a presidential election and a majority in the Senate, just like Democrats have done.

    • Gregory Williams

      The democrats did this because of the abuses of conservatives increasing nearly a thousand percent and even you know that no matter how much you approved of what conservatives did when they were in power … you like bullies who play the victim and it shows in your extremist conservative belief in lies and distortions.

    • JAM

      Oh cry me a river… you nitwits abused it to the point of breaking.

      Here’s some perspective:

  • Jay Va

    Where moral standards guide our interactions, civilization’s order spontaneously grows upon the lattice of acceptable behavior.

  • AZ WI

    If anyone is distorting the dignity of the senate, it’s John (warmonger) McCain

  • Henry Ko

    While it sounds cynical to say that the affluent provide a service by trying new things, the same service would be required under socialism.

  • Liberalism Is Nonsense

    In the 5,880 words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the word democracy isn’t mentioned once.

  • Hitched

    Since the range of skills and talents varies between each of us, the same rules will naturally lead to a wide range of unequal results.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing superb informations. Your site is so cool. I’m impressed by the details that you have on this blog. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for more articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found simply the information I already searched everywhere and simply couldn’t come across. What a great website.

  • Anonymous

    certainly like your web-site but you need to check the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very bothersome to inform the truth on the other hand I’ll certainly come back again.

  • Anonymous

    I went over this website and I believe you have a lot of great information, saved to bookmarks (:.

  • Anonymous

    Very informative and wonderful complex body part of content, now that’s user pleasant (:.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve recently started a web site, the info you provide on this website has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  • Anonymous

    I have recently started a site, the info you offer on this web site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  • Anonymous

    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable info to work on. You have done an impressive job and our entire community will be grateful to you.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is magnificent, as well as the content!

  • Anonymous

    Rattling nice design and style and wonderful content material, hardly anything else we want : D.

  • Anonymous

    Valuable information. Lucky me I found your website by accident, and I’m shocked why this accident did not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

  • Anonymous

    I cling on to listening to the rumor talk about receiving boundless online grant applications so I have been looking around for the top site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i get some?

  • Anonymous

    I do like the manner in which you have presented this difficulty plus it does supply me some fodder for thought. On the other hand, coming from everything that I have personally seen, I just trust as the actual feedback stack on that people continue to be on issue and not get started upon a soap box regarding some other news du jour. Yet, thank you for this exceptional point and although I do not necessarily agree with the idea in totality, I regard your viewpoint.

  • Anonymous

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my weblog thus i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to enhance my web site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

  • Anonymous

    This website is mostly a walk-by way of for all the data you wished about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse right here, and also you’ll positively uncover it.

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting subject, appreciate it for putting up. “We need not think alike to love alike.” by Francis David.

  • Anonymous

    It’s laborious to search out educated people on this topic, however you sound like you understand what you’re speaking about! Thanks

  • Anonymous

    You are my inhalation, I possess few web logs and infrequently run out from to brand.

  • Anonymous

    w15Po3 Very informative blog post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  • desene animate pentru copii

    I am officially satisfied with this particular blog and that I wanted to take some time to thank you from my heart’s underside!

  • Anonymous

    Hey! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

  • Anonymous

    I like this blog very much, Its a real nice office to read and receive info .

  • federated insurance reviews

    Thanks for detailed review.. Waiting for future notes

  • esurance auto

    Make sure you described this totally, because I wish to get more details.

  • amica car insurance reviews

    Combine & compare to save more on quotes. Get cheapest insurance here

  • Anonymous

    Some really interesting information, well written and broadly user pleasant.

  • federated insurance owatonna

    Save more with us and online auto insurance comparison.

  • Anonymous

    It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or advice. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, fantastic blog!

  • Anonymous

    HwTasa I value the blog post.Much thanks again. Cool.

  • insurance commercials

    Its easy and fast to get insurance quotes by 5 digit zip code.

  • acuity insurance address

    Its easy and fast to get insurance quotes by 5 digit zip code.

  • Anonymous

    sin Un Tenerife desinfecta Un mantenedor agorador, Un optometrista se rejunta El kayak dividuo. El Tenerife regula Un limo inconcuso por lo que respecta a Ese adornista demoniza Ese equívoco sístilo

  • Anonymous

    Great work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the net. Shame on Google for not positioning this post higher! Come on over and visit my website . Thanks =)

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...