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Senator puts blanket hold on presidential nominees

Senator puts blanket hold on presidential nominees

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has placed a blanket hold on all executive nominations on the Senate calendar in an effort to win concessions from the Obama administration and Pentagon on a variety of fronts affecting his home state, according to aides to Se

Dan Friedman and Megan Scully | Government Executive

February 08, 2010

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has placed a blanket hold on all executive nominations on the Senate calendar in an effort to win concessions from the Obama administration and Pentagon on a variety of fronts affecting his home state, according to aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle said Shelby is blocking more than 70 pending nominations. Reid can force a vote on any nomination by filing cloture.

Because of the time required to vote on multiple nominations, the Senate processes most nominations by unanimous consent. Any one senator can block any of those nominations by objecting to a unanimous consent request to take it up. The nominations will remain stalled unless Reid files cloture.

While holds are frequent, Senate aides said a blanket hold represents a far more aggressive use of the power than is normal.

“He should not be holding up 70-plus nominees for a parochial issue,” a Democratic aide said. “They’re qualified and they should be moving forward.”

Disclosure of the blanket hold came after two days in which top Democrats voiced mounting frustration with Republican holds on executive nominees.

“We’ve got a huge backlog of folks who are unanimously viewed as well qualified — nobody has a specific objection to them — but end up having a hold on them because of some completely unrelated piece of business,” President Obama said Wednesday in a televised meeting with Senate Democrats.

On the Senate floor Thursday, Reid, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich. ripped Republicans for holds on national security nominees and judges.

Reid, who kept the Senate in pro forma session over recent holidays to prevent former President George W. Bush from making recess appointments, said he has grown so frustrated he might advocate such appointments, which the president can make when the Senate is out of session.

“What alternatives do we have?” Reid said on the floor Thursday. “What alternative do we have?”

Earlier in the day, a spokesman for Shelby said the senator has placed holds on “several pending nominees due to unaddressed national security concerns,” including frustrations with the Air Force’s handling of the competition for an aerial refueling tanker. The spokesman did not respond to later requests for comment about the blanket hold.


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