Republicans seek to obstruct Obama
executive, judicial nominees
By Nan Aron
Alliance for Justice
With battles ahead over President Obama’s choices for Secretary of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director and the National Labor Relations Board, and fights over the nation’s second most important court likely to follow, democracy itself is on trial in the United States Senate.
If Republicans persist in preventing yes-or-no votes on President Obama’s executive and judicial nominees, the only recourse will be for the majority to revisit Senate rules reform and put an end once and for all to Republican efforts to subvert the Senate’s constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent.
The first test is likely to come this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he will schedule a vote on President Obama’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray. The CFPB was created as part of the Wall Street Reform law as an agency solely devoted to protecting consumers of financial products from mortgages to credit cards. In a transparent effort to protect the very special interests that collapsed our economy and brought ruin to so many Americans, Republicans so far have refused to confirm Cordray. In fact, Republicans have said they won’t confirm anyone to run the CFPB.
Republicans have been equally obstinate about the president’s nominees for the National Labor Relations Board, the independent agency charged with protecting the rights of workers – and a hearing on those nominees just last week showed no thaw in that obstinacy. That’s why Cordray and some of the current NLRB members had to be named through recess appointments.
But three Republican-appointed judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, breaking with decades of precedent, decided that the President doesn’t have the power to make such recess appointments. The decision is part of a pattern in which the D.C. Circuit consistently sides with corporate interests over workers and consumers – blocking Wall Street reforms, undermining labor rights, and rolling back environmental protections.
So it’s no wonder that Republicans also are trying to prevent the president from restoring balance to the D.C. Circuit, which is currently dominated by Republican appointees. The latest underhanded tactic from Republican Senators amounts to a ‘pre-emptive filibuster’ – an effort to eliminate three of the four vacant judgeships on the court in order to prevent President Obama from filling those seats.
But even that isn’t the end of the obstruction. We are pleased that two Senate committees were able to overcome Republican stalling tactics and vote last week in favor of President Obama’s highly-qualified nominees to lead the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency. The next step must be swift yes-or-no votes by the full Senate on the nominations of Tom Perez and Gina McCarthy.
Unfortunately, these two outstanding nominees’ ordeals may be far from over. All of the Republicans on both committees voted no. As AFJ has pointed out before, to Senate Republicans, one of the only things as bad as a Labor Secretary who will protect working people is an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who will protect the environment.
A solid majority of voters twice has made clear that they support the approach to government taken by Barack Obama. In response, the Republican strategy boils down to rule-or-ruin. They have shown themselves prepared to paralyze government, no matter what the cost to the American people. In the days ahead, we will see if the Senate is ready to break free of this paralysis.