Confirmations: Joyce Barr (State/A), Michael McFaul (Moscow), Other Nominations Remain in "Status Quo"

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During the Floor Wrap Up for Saturday, December 17, 2011, the Senate confirmed the following nominees for the State Department:

#421 Joyce A. Barr – to be Assistant Secretary of State (Administration)

#503 Michael Anthony McFaul – to be Ambassador of the US of America to the Russian Federation.

Earlier the same afternoon, Senator Reid asked for unanimous consent that the Senate take up and confirm the following nominations on the Executive Calendar but Senator McConnell objected to the request.

#421 Joyce A. Barr – to be Assistant Secretary of State (Administration)

#422 Michael A. Hammer – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Public Affairs)

#501 Mari Carmen Aponte – to be Ambassador of the US of America to the Republic of El Salvador.

#502 Adam E. Namm – to be Ambassador of the US of America to the Republic of Ecuador.

#503 Michael Anthony McFaul – to be Ambassador of the US of America to the Russian Federation.

#504 Roberta S. Jacobson – to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Western Hemisphere Affairs),

#505 Elizabeth M. Cousens – to be Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.

#506 Elizabeth M. Cousens – to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during her tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The Majority calendar indicates that “All nominations received by the Senate during the 112th Congress, first session, will remain in status quo, notwithstanding the provisions of rule XXXI, paragraph 6, of the Standing Rules of the Senate.”

See Rule XXXI #6: Nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President; and if the Senate shall adjourn or take a recess for more than thirty days, all nominations pending and not finally acted upon at the time of taking such adjournment or recess shall be returned by the Secretary to the President, and shall not again be considered unless they shall again be made to the Senate by the President.

So, the nominees need not have to be resubmitted again, but since the GOP has blocked adjournment, there will be no official ‘recess’ and the Senate will have scheduled pro-forma sessions during the Christmas break. Which means, President Obama will not/not be able to make any recess appointments.

On the controversial recess appointees, it looks like Ambassador Aponte’s nomination (El Salvador) as well as Ambassador Bryza’s (Azerbaijan) with the late pleas are not totally dead. (Update 12/20: The Orlando Sentinel reports that Senator Reid’s office said Monday there still might be a chance to salvage Aponte’s nomination, through complex Senate procedures.” I don’t know how Ambassador Bryza’s nomination could be saved when he did not even get his SFRC hearing, much less the committee’s endorsement)

Here is a useful explanation from the CRS:

Nominations that are not confirmed or rejected are returned to the President at the end of a session or when the Senate adjourns or recesses for more than 30 days (Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6). If the President still wants a nominee considered, he must submit a new nomination to the Senate. The Senate can, however, waive this rule by unanimous consent. For example, on November 19, 1999, at the close of the first session of the l06* Congress, Majority Leader Trent Lott asked and received unanimous consent “that all nominations received by the Senate during the 10thCongress, first session, remain in status quo.” Similar agreements were reached in earlier Congresses as well. The majority leader or his designee also may exempt specific nominees by name from the agreement, allowing them to be returned during the recess or adjournment. Just before the recess between the first and second sessions of the 107th Congress, for example, the Senate by unanimous consent agreed to hold all nominations in the status quo except for one, which was returned to the President. Prior to the August recess in the 107thCongress, however, the Senate did not reach such an agreement, and 162 pending nominations were returned. President George W. Bush re-nominated many of the nominees after the recess.

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