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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned today that if no progress is made on executive branch nominations, he would recommend that President Barack Obama appoint roughly 70 nominees during the recess.
“They are being held up out of spite” by Republicans, Reid said of the approximately 90 nominees waiting for a vote on the Senate floor.
“Nominees on the executive calendar have been pending anre average of three months, waiting for the Senate to act,” Reid continued. “Senate Republicans are blocking [the nominees] for political reasons, very, very weak political reasons.”
He added, “If something breaks here I am going to recommend the president recess appoint” all pending executive branch nominees, excluding those seeking military and judicial posts.
That amounts to about 70 nominees, Senate Democratic aides said.
Reid said that the Senate would fight on the floor over judges. The Senate confirmed Jesse M. Furman to be a federal judge in New York’s Southern District today by roll call vote 62-34.
“We’ll have the fight on judges ourselves because they are recommendations that we make to the president,” Reid said.
A recess appointment of a judge would more controversial because a judgeship is a lifetime appointment.
The others “are the president’s nominations and he should have the right to have these people working in his administration,” Reid continued.
Reid's warning that he may invite the president to make recess appointments came after Republicans objected to a unanimous consent request to confirm nearly 70 nominees, which Democrats said were non-controversial.
His comments also come as Republicans are still seething over Obama’s January move to appoint Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as to fill three slots on the National Labor Relations Board.
Republicans questioned the legitimacy of the appointments and charged the White House with overreach. They contend that Congress was not in recess when the appointments were made because they 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 a bona fide session.
Reid pioneered the use of keeping the Senate and House from going into recesses by holding short pro forma sessions every three days. He used the tactic to prevent President George W. Bush from making recess appointments.
But Reid sides with Obama on the recess appointment decision. “I think the president did the minimal with these recess appointments, the minimal,” Reid said.
The Senate will hold pro-forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday, as Republicans in both chambers refuse to allow for an adjournment resolution allow the Congress to officially go out of session.
While some Republican Senators have threatened to hold up Obama’s nominees, a unified response to the January recess appointments remains elusive. Many are wary of opening themselves up to criticism of being obstructionists, which is the narrative Obama is using to make the case for a second term.