Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Commerce Committee, was sympathetic to DeMint’s argument regarding the FAA nominee, but he was not prepared to call for a blockade of all executive branch nominees.
“There is some merit to” DeMint’s argument on Huerta, Blunt said. “I voted for Michael Huerta in committee, but with the specific understanding that these may not go forward,” Blunt said. “If the president is re-elected, he can submit that name again in January and he would surely be confirmed.”
With regard to a blanket hold on executive branch appointees, “I would look at the other case by case,” Blunt said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he also would not recommend a blanket hold, but he backs the current blockade on circuit court judges, known as the Thurmond Rule.
Alternatively known as the “Leahy Rule” by some Republicans after Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the doctrine holds that within six months of a presidential election, the opposition party can, and typically does, refuse to allow votes on circuit court judges.
“I think we have a very well-established bipartisan Thurmond/Leahy Rule that affects circuit court judges, and I support that,” Alexander said.
Alexander noted that because judicial appointments are for life, they are treated differently than executive branch appointments.
He also said that there is not much time left before the elections, so not many, if any, nominees could be considered on the floor.
“I am not ready to put a blanket hold” on executive branch nominations, Alexander said.
“I think we need look at the president’s nominations one by one,” he said, adding that “I don’t think there is enough time to confirm anyone before the election.”
His comments come after the House sent the president a bill that he sponsored along with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would eliminate the confirmation of 169 executive nominations to junior and part-time positions.
The bill was part of an agreement entered into by Democratic leaders at the beginning of last year in lieu of changing Senate rules.
Part of the agreement called for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) entering into a gentlemen’s agreement whereby Republicans were supposed to allow bills to come to the floor without procedural barriers and Reid was supposed to allow GOP amendments instead of using a maneuver known as “filling the amendment tree” to block the minority from proposing amendments to a bill. But it hasn’t worked out that way.
The agreement has broken down, and now Reid has said he will move to eliminate the ability to filibuster motions to proceed to legislation that prevent consideration of bills before debate even begins.