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GOP Senators Disagree on Boycott of Cordray Hearing

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Mike Lee threatened Thursday to slow down the nomination process until President Barack Obama's recent recess appointments are withdrawn.

After flirting with a possible unified boycott, most Senate Republicans on the Banking Committee are expected to attend a Tuesday hearing at which Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray will testify.

The Banking Committee Republicans had considered skipping the hearing to protest Cordray’s recess appointment earlier this month, which they believe was unconstitutional, according to Republican aides. The boycott was called off due to a lack of unity on the part of the lawmakers, the aides said.

“There were discussions, but nothing came to fruition,” one aide said.

Another aide said it was unclear how much momentum there was for the boycott, though it was discussed as a way to underscore the disdain for the appointment.

The inability of the lawmakers to unify behind a single strategy mirrors the lack of consensus within the Senate Republican Conference regarding how to respond to Cordray’s Jan. 4 recess appointment and the appointments of three National Labor Relations Board members.

Some Senators appear to be concerned that further blockades of nominees could give the president more ammunition for his narrative about GOP obstruction creating a do-nothing Congress.

Banking Committee ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) is planning to attend the hearing to question Cordray, as are Republican Sens. Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Mike Johanns (Neb.).

But a few of the other Republican Senators on the panel may join Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) who announced Thursday on the Senate floor that he would boycott.

“I will not provide the administration with the appearance of legitimacy, and I will, therefore, not be in attendance at next Tuesday’s hearing,” Wicker said.

Republicans question the legitimacy of the recess picks, contending that Congress was not technically in recess when the appointments were made because both chambers held short pro forma sessions every three days during the holiday break. The White House argues that the pro forma sessions were a “gimmick” and didn’t count as bona fide sessions.

With no unified strategy, some Senators have threatened to hold up nominations, but it remains to be seen whether they could mount a successful filibuster.

That may be tested sooner rather than later. Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), another Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, threatened Thursday to slow down the nomination process and possibly other legislation until the appointments are withdrawn.

Lee made good on his threat Thursday night by objecting to a Democratic effort to set up a vote on a judicial nominee, Lee’s office said.

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