Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion Thursday on the nomination of labor counsel Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. The vote on cloture will occur after 5 p.m. Monday. (See The Congressional Record for details.) [UPDATE 1 p.m. Friday: CQ Politics story, “Feb. 8 Vote Will Be First Test of Senate GOP’s New Number.”]
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee had earlier in the day reported out Becker’s nomination, 13-10, on a partyline vote. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY) both made statements on Becker’s nomination before the committee vote. (Harkin, Enzi.)
Enzi’s vote against Becker indicated solid Republican opposition to Becker, and with the swearing in of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), the GOP can defeat a cloture vote.
Thus, Majority Leader Reid has begun to talk about recess appointments, raising the possibility in remarks on the Senate floor:
Today is Thursday. I know we were interrupted yesterday because of the retreat, but we have spent all day on Monday, Tuesday, and now Thursday on two nominees, one to be the Solicitor at the Department of Labor–that is the lawyer for the entire Department of Labor–and the one we are working on today is to have someone run the General Services Administration. The Federal Government is the largest real estate holder in the world, and the General Services Administration manages that. Yet we have no one to run that.
So we have had to file cloture. Everyone within the sound of my voice understands it takes a long time to do that. We have to lay it down, file cloture, 2 days, 30 hours. It is not right, and I hope we can get more cooperation.
I have been someone who has tried hard not to have the President do recess appointments, but what alternative do we have? What alternative do we have? We have on the calendar dozens of people who are being held up–dozens–and I have only picked out a few; these very sensitive people, dealing with the safety and security of our country. I think it is without explanation why this is happening.
Sen. Enzi responded a few moments later:
The leader earlier talked about the amount of time it takes for cloture on people. It does take quite a while, but it is part of the process. I can tell you, when there is a hearing on a person, if there are 270 questions to start with and the other people in a similar position have a couple dozen questions, you know there is a little bit of a problem that could develop with that one person, depending on how they answer or don’t answer the questions.
This isn’t something new. This isn’t something that happened just this year. I was chairman of the HELP Committee for 2 years and then ranking member for 2 years. During that time, President Bush had an appointment as the FDA Commissioner that was stopped. We never even got him to the floor. We had an MSHA Director–I think it was the first MSHA Director–who worked in a mine. That was the mining safety person. We had a Surgeon General and others. Then the schedule was set up so there were no recesses so there couldn’t be recess appointments. So this is an ongoing matter and both sides should take note of that and ask the person making the nominations to come up with reasonable nominations, not people who have an agenda already set out that will result in the kind of conflicts we have had on some of these nominations.
Enzi’s remarks came during his floor statement opposing the nomination of Patricia Smith to serve as solicitor of the Department of Labor. Smith was confirmed 60-37 on a partyline vote.
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