Senate Democrats managed to confirm scores of Obama administration nominees for judgeships and other high-level positions before the end of the 113th Congress, but there are more nominees to go — and the Republicans are now in charge and deciding their next steps, Politico
Despite the frenzied activity by Democrats, Republicans will need to give their consent to still-outstanding nominations, including key ones like that of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general and Ashton Carter to be defense secretary.
Also on the horizon are the nominations of former New York State education commissioner John King to a senior position at the Education Department and Vanita Gupta to formally head the civil rights division in the Justice Department, according to The Washington Post
Sen. Harry Reid pushed through one Obama nomination after another in the waning days of his tenure as majority leader, among them Sarah Saldana at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general, and Tony Blinken as deputy secretary of State.
In the course of the 113th Congress, Reid ushered through the approval of 132 judges — the most since the end of the Carter administration — plus 300 other senior nominees throughout 2014. In order to do that, Reid changed the rules making it harder for Republicans to block nominations by filibuster
The filibuster change and worries that Republicans would take over the Senate stirred Democrats to cut through much of the nominee backlog. All pending judicial appointments were confirmed.
Procedural arrangements with the Republican leadership allowed many non-contentious executive branch jobs to be approved with bipartisan support, according to Politico.
Republican leaders say they will not hold up future presidential nominations to protest administration policies — though that is precisely what some rank-and-file senators like Ted Cruz of Texas are demanding.
Instead, the GOP will leverage the appropriations process.
"Confirmations ought to be based upon the need for that person to be confirmed, basically their qualifications," said Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran. "I would focus on the appropriations rather than the nominations.
"I think it's more direct: The thing you're trying to change, you actually change though appropriations."
Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso agreed. "Nominees are going to be evaluated on their individual merits and those who represent, I imagine, the mainstream, are going to get approved.
"Just as people that can show that they're capable and competent will be approved," Barrasso told Politico.
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