Reid Urges Obama to Recess-Appoint Nominees

Posted February 9, 2010 at 6:47pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) went to the floor Tuesday to lament the slow progress of confirming nominees and called on President Barack Obama to take action over the Presidents Day recess.

“I think, frankly, the president should recess all of them,” Reid said of appointing the nominees stalled in the Senate.

“It should be done. What’s being done to this president is unfair,” Reid asserted, saying such holds on nominees have “never been done before.”

Reid’s comments came after announcing the chamber would approve the nominations of Philip Goldberg to serve as assistant secretary of State and Clifford Stanley to be undersecretary of Defense on Tuesday night. Despite that progress, Reid said dozens of names still remain on the Senate calendar and have been awaiting action for months.

“The Republicans are holding these people up for reasons that have nothing to do with their background, their morality [or] the competency of these people,” Reid said.

Despite his calls for recess appointments Tuesday, Reid in the past has been a staunch opponent of the tactic, which allows for the president to bypass Senate confirmation when lawmakers are out of town. In November 2007, Reid began using regular pro forma sessions during recesses to block efforts by the Bush administration to recess-appoint dozens of nominations that Democrats were blocking.

At the time, Reid said he was taking the unusual step because then-President George W. Bush had refused to meet Democrats “halfway” in naming members to key commissions.

“While an election year looms, significant progress can still be made on nominations, I am committed to making that progress if the President will meet me halfway … But that progress can’t be made if the President seeks controversial recess appointments and fails to make Democratic appointments to important commissions,” Reid said in a floor statement.

Although Democrats did not target national security nominees — as has been the case this year — Republicans railed against Reid’s use of pro forma sessions to block Bush’s ability to appoint nominees.

Obama told reporters at a press conference following a bipartisan jobs summit at the White House on Tuesday morning that he would exert his executive power over the Presidents Day recess to clear nominations if necessary.

“If the Senate does not act — and I made this very clear — if the Senate does not act to confirm these nominees, I will consider making several recess appointments during the upcoming recess, because we can’t afford to allow politics to stand in the way of a well-functioning government,” Obama said.