Yesterday, Harry Reid gave a speech on the Senate floor where he suggested that the President recess appoint all his nominees who were not being given an up or down vote in the Senate.
REID: I mean it’s disgraceful. The Republicans are holding these people up for reasons that have nothing to do with their background, morality [or] competency of these people. … I think, frankly, the President should recess [appoint] all of them. All of them. He has been given very little recognition for the importance of the job that he has trying to find the best people in America to fill this position. No one can say Democrats did this when we were in the minority — we didn’t do this. There were people that were held up, but this something that is beyond the pale.
It’s unclear whether this would include Craig Becker, the nominee for the National Labor Relations Board who was denied an up-or-down vote yesterday when the Senate failed to invoke cloture.
If this were some rank and file Senator saying this, it would mean one thing. But Reid is the Majority Leader, and in charge of the Senate schedule. So this could suggest that Reid is basically done with trying to move Obama nominees, seeing them as a waste of the Senate’s time and better dealt with through recess appointments. If Reid essentially shuts down the nomination process, Obama really has little choice if he wants to fill these key positions.
It’s not clear whether Reid is playing this kind of hardball, and efforts to get clarification on this from his office have not yet been returned (the government is shut down, after all). But if that’s the gambit, it would be significant, and it would be interesting to see how Obama reacts.
Sen. Tom Udall, who has been pushing for reform of the Senate’s rules, has responded to recent obstructionism by Senate Republicans by reiterating his call to break that by allowing the Senate to determine its own rules at the beginning of the next Congress.