Reporting from Washington — After months of criticism that Republicans are holding up President Obama’s judicial nominees, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now plans to force back-to-back votes in what could be a political showdown later this week.
Reid (D-Nev.) took a highly unusual step Monday of launching the process for Senate approval of 17 judges as soon as Wednesday. Under the Senate’s complex rules, breaking the Republican-led filibuster could take weeks. The Democratic leader had been threatening to ramp up the nomination approval process to confront what Democrats say is GOP obstruction.
“Republicans have refused to allow us to vote – won’t even allow us to vote – on these qualified judicial nominees,” Reid said from the Senate floor. “What else can we do?”
Republicans swiftly pounced on the effort, with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) calling it “nothing more than a political stunt.”
Republican senators have warned they will slow-walk presidential nominees after Obama made an end run around the Senate to appoint Richard Cordray to the head the new consumer protection bureau over Republican objections earlier this year when Congress was not in session.
“We simply cannot continue to afford nominees near-complete deference until President Obama rescinds his unconstitutional appointments and restores the Senate’s proper constitutional role in the confirmation process,” Lee said.
But most of the 17 judicial nominees have cleared the committee process with overwhelmingly bipartisan votes of approval. The move by Reid will force Republicans to either approve Obama’s choices or vote repeatedly to turn them back in a process that could take weeks under Senate rules.
Senate Republican leaders say they have not been stalling the process, and they note that Obama has made nominations for only a fraction of the judicial vacancies.
Original source: Reid tees up Senate fight to confirm 17 judges