Obama Nominees: A Work Around the Republican Senate? Call Your Senate Besties!

Posted: 2:39 am EDT
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Politico writes that Tom Cotton, the freshman Republican senator from Arkansas has indefinitely stalled ambassadorial nominees to Sweden, Norway and the Bahamas — a former White House counsel, plus two Obama campaign bundlers — until the administration investigates the Secret Service’s misconduct.

It’s not just Cotton holding up nominations. Republican senators such as Ted Cruz, John McCain and Chuck Grassley are deploying the tactic at an unprecedented level in their ongoing war with the White House. Right now, eight ambassadorial nominees are waiting on the Senate floor to be confirmed, and more than 100 other nominations are languishing in committee.
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It’s a historic battle with the president that’s likely to continue as Obama marches toward the end of his presidency with minimal relations with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
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Faced with such resolute opposition from the GOP, there are signs that the White House isn’t eager to push more high-ranking nominees to the Senate.
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[F]or dozens of other nominees hoping to serve Obama for his last 15 months, there’s no way to work around the Republican Senate. Currently, there are about 60 nominees awaiting floor action, and more than twice that waiting for committee approval.

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The Senate did confirm a few nominees for the State Department last week (see Senate Confirmations: Tamlyn, Hawkins, Gilmour, Nolan, Alsup, Rubinstein, Amato, Mendelson), mostly career appointees.  However, the senate hold, includes not just political appointees but even midlevel career appointees snared in this logjam (see Senators Grassley and Cotton Now Have 25 @StateDept Nominations Glued Down, and Going Nowhere).

With less than a hundred days to go, some of these nominees will potentially time out this year and would have to be renominated.  Some of those on the list have already been renominated once before, we can’t imagine they’d be willing to put their lives on hold just waiting around indefinitely.  If they do get renominated and get confirmation,  they’ll have several months on the job before they have to submit their resignation after the November 2016 presidential election.

Who wants to move household in February 2016 only to pack out and move household again in December or January 2017? This would be true particularly for political appointees but they may not care as long as they get to posts.  However, career appointees would not be exempted from this disruption either if they are destined for posts high on the wish list of the 2017 political appointees.

Career diplomats are typically allowed to serve their full tours even if there is a change of administration.  But all appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, so 2017 will be another year of embassy staffing disruption and personnel movement for top ranking career diplomats will be in the stars.

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Related post:

The Tyranny of the Timepiece : Senate Rules Obstruct Voting to a Degree that Wounds Our Government (pdf)

The Logic of Collective Inaction: Senatorial Delay in Executive Nominations, American Journal of Political Science (for fee access).