Democratic Freshmen Take Up Fight Over Obama’s Stalled Nominees

Posted March 16, 2010 at 10:31am

Democratic freshmen took to the Senate floor Tuesday to blast Republicans for holding up Obama administration nominees.

The first-term Members specifically rebuked Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) for holding up a handful of nominees for trade-related posts. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Bunning “should voice that disagreement publicly” rather than using procedural tactics to stall President Barack Obama’s picks.

“When a Senator blocks basic governmental action — action that all agree is of national importance — for purely parochial and political reasons, the public rightly wonders what is going on,” Whitehouse said.

Currently 88 executive and judicial nominees are pending on the Senate calendar. One by one, Senate Democrats took to the floor to list some of them and rebuke Republicans for holding them up, but then later voting to confirm them.

“Some of the very safeguards that were created to make this a serious and responsible deliberative body have been abused in a way that damages this institution,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said.

Warner noted the lengthy process that it took for the Senate to confirm the nomination of Barbara Keenan to serve on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees federal district courts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to file a procedural motion to overcome a GOP hold of her nomination, which eventually was approved by a decisive 99-0 vote.

“Filibustering a nominee who gets a unanimous vote, something’s not right with that,” Warner said. “That experience was truly an eye-opener for me.”