So far, the Obama presidency has lacked the high-profile battles over lower-court judicial nominees that frequently marked the previous eight years. But senators are preparing for a skirmish that could tie up the chamber for days.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today that he plans to stay in session “around the clock” until there are votes on five presidential nominees, including three for judicial vacancies, one for the Justice Department, and one for the Treasury Department. While senators aren’t yet breaking out the cots for late-night votes, the threat signals a renewed effort to push nominees to confirmation.
“Many Americans have never heard these nominations’ names before, but that doesn’t make their jobs any less critical for the country,” Reid said on the Senate floor. He singled out the judicial nominees, saying “the public pays the price” when they are not confirmed.
The Senate is set to vote first on whether to end debate on the Treasury nominee, Lael Brainard. That vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today. Reid said that, unless Republicans agree to end debate on the other nominees, similar votes would follow for their nominations. His comments confirm a plan that emerged Thursday.
Reid blamed Republican objections for holding up the nominees. The four legal picks are Christopher Schroeder to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, Judge Denny Chin for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, Judge Thomas Vanaskie for the 3rd Circuit, and D.C. Magistrate Judge Marisa Demeo for the D.C. Superior Court.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking after Reid, did not address the GOP’s objections. He criticized the Democrats’ proposed financial regulatory overhaul, which the Senate is set to consider after the nominations.
Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they expected a renewed focus on confirming judicial nominees.