Working nearly around the clock, the Senate has confirmed a slate of non-controversial judicial and executive nominees in an end-of-the year push to finish legislative business. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says more confirmation votes will come next week.
The Senate on Monday will take up the nomination former U.S. Department of Defense general counsel Jeh Johnson to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Senators would then take up the budget bill Tuesday and a defense bill the next day, Reid said, before addressing more nominations.
Reid wants to hold a confirmation vote for U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, before the Senate leaves for the holiday break on Dec. 20. Wilkins was among the nominations Reid identified as important.
Reid said on the Senate floor “the most important one is Janet Yellen to be on the Federal Reserve,” and he will work with Republicans to “see how many we can get done.”
Because Republicans have forced Democrats to use all the time required under Senate rules to get to confirmation votes, the Senate has gone into marathon sessions this week. That has included unusual vote times such as 1 a.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. today.
An agreement between Democrats and Republicans stopped votes from occurring as late as 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.
In other action, the Senate voted 57-41 on Dec. 12 to confirm retired federal appeals judge Patricia Wald to another term on a White House panel that's looking at privacy law in the context of the national security.
Wald, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1986 to 1991, has served on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for more than a year. The group held two public meetings this year focused on National Security Agency surveillance programs.
The Senate also voted 54-41 to confirm Chai Feldblum, on leave as a Georgetown University Law Center professor, to a second term on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. President Obama renominated Feldblum in May to the commission, which enforces federal laws against workplace discrimination.
The Senate also confirmed a slate of federal trial judges yesterday: Elizabeth Wolford for the Western District of New York in a 70-29 vote; Landya McCafferty for the District of New Hampshire in a 79-19 vote; Brian Morris for the District of Montana in a 75-20 vote; and Susan Watters for the District of Montana in a 77-19 vote.