Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) excoriated Republicans on Thursday for stalling more than 200 executive and judicial nominees that in some cases have been lingering on the executive calendar for months.
Senate Republicans are simply so opposed to everything, absolutely everything, that they even oppose putting people in some of the most important positions in our government, Reid said in a floor statement.
Reid noted the Obama administration currently does not have a surgeon general in place, at a time when the H1N1 flu outbreak has reached national emergency status.
Americans are bracing against a flu epidemic here at home and threats of terrorism from abroad, Reid said. The president nominated someone highly experienced in both of these areas, and the Republicans are saying no.
Regina Benjamin, the surgeon general nominee, was unanimously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Oct. 7. But Senate Republicans are holding up all Health and Human Services Department nominees over a gag order on insurance companies that have been critical of Democratic efforts to reform health care.
Though Reid declared none of the nominees are controversial, he has had trouble rallying even his own caucus behind the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who President Barack Obama tapped in February to lead the Office of Legal Counsel. Johnsen has drawn bipartisan criticism over her positions on abortion rights and disapproving comments of Bush administration interrogation tactics. Johnsens nomination has been pending since March 19.
Republicans have maintained they are open to reaching agreements on a host of nominees, and point out that with a filibuster-proof majority, Reid can at any point file a procedural motion to overcome GOP opposition.
Other nominees Reid highlighted on the floor were Martha Johnson, of Maryland, tapped to head the General Services Administration, and Arturo Valenzuela, appointed to serve as under secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.