We’ll hear a lot about bottlenecks on nominations and legislation if the GOP wins control of the Senate. It’s telling, however, that the Obama administration has begun to complain about it now — and that the media is picking it up. The State Department wants Harry Reid to focus on clearing the backlog in the lame-duck session after the election, because they’re worried about what happens when Republicans take charge in January … an outcome to which they have apparently resigned themselves:
State Department officials and Washington’s diplomatic community are pressing the Senate to address a backlog of ambassadorial nominations during Congress’ post-election lame-duck session.
They fear that if the Republicans win control of the Senate, the already sluggish pace of voting on President Barack Obama’s nominees will worsen over the next two years.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the elections,” said Kristen Fernekes, a spokeswoman for the 17,000-memberAmerican Foreign Service Association. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the lame duck. We’re deeply concerned about this becoming the new normal, and we don’t want to see it take 400, 300, 200 days to get people to their posts.”
McClatchy’s William Douglas reports that Democrats on Capitol Hill are already accusing Republicans of planning to sabotage the process:
Democrats and several political analysts foresee difficulties for the White House in getting its nominees confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who stands to become the chamber’s majority leader if his party wins control in the coming elections, has vowed to restore so-called “regular order” to the Senate, a process in which legislation and nominations go through committees before being debated and voted on by the full Senate.
But political observers predict that a Republican-run Senate would slow the pace of addressing Obama’s nominees, already at a trickle, even further.
Let’s talk about the current trickle, shall we? Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats used the so-called “nuclear option” to change filibuster rules in the Senate in order to prevent Republicans for requiring a supermajority on presidential appointments, except for Supreme Court nominations. That change didn’t occur last month, or even three or four months ago — it took place almost a year ago. The vote took place on November 21, 2013, 52/48, and the rule has been in place ever since.
That was 343 days ago, today included. Democrats could have voted these nominations out of committee on majority votes at any time, and confirmed them on the Senate floor the same way. If there is a 400-day delay in getting Obama’s appointees confirmed, then, it’s not the Republicans’ fault, who have no way to block that process any longer. The fault belongs to Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats. In fact, the only real attempt they’ve made to move these nominations was a July stunt in which Reid and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) tried to get nominees confirmed en masse, which Sen. Mike Enzi blocked in protest.
Reid might be forced to try the same stunt next month in order to get the nominations he’s neglected confirmed while the Senate is still friendly to Obama. Those nominations should get a floor vote separately and independently, though, not rushed through in a bloc vote just because Reid refused to utilize the rule he shoved down Republican throats one year earlier. It seems the only real way to improve this process is to make sure Democrats aren’t left in charge of it.