The liberal organization People for the American Way has had just about enough. PFAW says it’s time for the White House and Senate leadership to get down to business and bring dozens of Obama nominees–all of whom are waiting as Republicans threaten filibusters–to the Senate floor. Now the group is planning to take that message directly to Democratic leaders, who haven’t done all they can to circumvent the obstruction.
“There is unprecedented obstruction going on of executive branch officials,” says Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of PFAW.
In 1949, a change to Senate rules allowed members to filibuster executive branch nominees. Senators tend to believe (or at least to say) that, within bounds of decency, the White House deserves to be able to staff the executive branch as it chooses; and in the 60 years since then, the practice has been used sparingly.
Until Barack Obama came to town.“Between 1949 and 2009 there were 24 nominees on which cloture was forced,” Baker said. “In just the first 9 months of the Obama administration, there have been five such votes.”
During the George W. Bush administration, Baker notes, there were seven such votes.
“It’s…frankly, trying to overturn the results of the last election.”
But Democrats have 60 voting members, and, thus, the ability to push these people through (as long as they stay united against GOP filibusters). So what should Harry Reid and Obama do to get results? “They have to stand up, they have to be willing to call the Republicans on what they’re doing. File the cloture petitions and force the Republicans to come out and actually show their obstruction,” Baker said. “On many of these, they have the votes. It’s just a delay game.”
PFAW has been particularly incensed by the months-long delay of Dawn Johnsen, who Obama tapped to be head up the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in February.