Still wrestling with the weightiest decisions of its current session, the Supreme Court is likely to accept Monday what could be the most important case of its next one: a colossal power struggle between the White House and Congress over government appointments.
President Obama and Senate Republicans set the stage for the showdown during the past 2½ years as they fought over Obama’s proposed nominations to a little-known federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board. That battle is a microcosm of the broader war over the nomination and confirmation process — one that dates back over several presidencies.
The story line is simple: Obama’s nominees were blocked by Republicans, just as many of President George W. Bush’s choices were blocked by Democrats. So in January 2012 — with the Senate meeting every three days in pro-forma sessions but not conducting any business — Obama used the Constitution’s “recess appointments” clause to install them without Senate approval.
But if the GOP position on immigration reform goes the same way as the farm bill, Boehner will have to either get out of the way of the Senate bill or just do nothing, and compound the party’s growing problem with hispanic voters.
It’s easy to imagine him doing nothing if the bill in question had passed the Senate with all Democrats and six or seven RINOs. And he may do nothing anyhow. But he’ll have a lot more cover if 15 or 20 Senate Republicans have vouched for it.
Michigan’s effort to expand Medicaid for low-income residents suffered a major setback on Thursday that it may not recover from after Senate Republicans adjourned for the summer without voting on the provision.
The move was a snub to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who has championed the expansion, which states are entitled to under the Affordable Care Act at little cost to them. It’s expected to provide health care coverage to some additional 470,000 state residents.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) feuded this week. Then they feuded some more. It wasn’t the first time tensions between the longtime senator and the freshman tea party favorite flared up. And it’s a pretty safe bet that it won’t be the last.
The dispute between McCain and his allies and Cruz and his cohort lays bare a new fault line in the Senate GOP Conference — one that threatens to further stall movement in a legislative chamber already seized by partisan gridlock.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), pictured in center. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
At issue this week: the budget. The setting: the Senate floor. Cruz, along with Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Mike Lee of Utah have called for Senate Republicans to block efforts to move the budget debate to a conference committee (both the House and Senate have separately passed budgets) without a guarantee Democrats won’t surreptitiously try to insert an automatic increase to the nation’s debt limit through a procedural tactic.
Republican lawmakers on Thursday blocked a confirmation vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, saying they were “completely unsatisfied” with answers provided by Gina McCarthy on several topics.
All eight Republicans on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works boycotted a scheduled vote on McCarthy’s confirmation after a request to delay the meeting was turned down.
At least two Republicans were needed for the committee vote to go ahead, according to committee rules.
In a statement, the lawmakers said that they had made “five very reasonable and basic requests in conjunction with the nomination of Gina McCarthy, which focus on openness and transparency.”
“While you have allowed EPA adequate time to fully respond before any mark-up on the nomination, EPA has stonewalled on four of the five categories,” they said in a letter to committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, who had denied the request to postpone the nomination vote.
In recent weeks the Republicans submitted over 1,000 questions to the nominee, who is currently the EPA’s top air quality official, on topics ranging from the agency’s email policies to its approach to economic analysis.
President Barack Obama’s bid to renew a ban against military-style assault weapons narrowly won the backing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and headed to the full Senate, where it appears certain to fail.
On a party line vote of 10-8, the Democratic-led panel approved a bill to renew a ban similar to one that expired in 2004. The measure would also limit high-capacity ammunition clips to 10 bullets.
Military-style assault weapons have been the weapon of choice in a number of recent U.S. mass shootings, including one at a elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults on December 14.
Polls show a majority of Americans back the ban.
But most Senate Republicans and a number of Democrats from rural states oppose it, arguing it would violate the constitutional right to bear arms. Many fear that backing the legislation could cost them re-election.
Obama’s call to renew the ban is a centerpiece of his effort to curb gun violence in the wake of Newtown.
For the second time in two years, Senate Republicans are poised to block the nomination of a former New York state solicitor general to a federal appeals court.
The Senate is set to vote on a cloture petition on Caitlin Halligan’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday, unless a winter storm that hit the nation’s capital overnight causes delays.
Most Republicans are expected to unite against her nomination, preventing Democrats from reaching the 60 votes needed to pass the cloture motion. Without that step, Democrats can’t hold a final confirmation vote.
It is the latest case of Republicans stymieing a judicial nomination by President Barack Obama. GOP senators blocked Goodwin Liu, a nominee to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in May 2011, and many other nominations to federal courts have faced long delays. Republicans observe that many of President George W. Bush’s nominees received the same treatment from Democrats.
Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would oppose Ms. Halligan’s nomination because of the “potential for her judicial activism” if she were confirmed to the D.C. Circuit.
When the Dodd-Frank financial reform law first passed, Senate Republicans refused to confirm a director for the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They promised to block any nominee — regardless of that nominee’s qualifications for the job — unless the Bureau was weakened and made subservient to the same bank regulators who failed to prevent the 2008 financial crisis.
President Obama was thus forced to recess appoint Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to be the Bureau’s first director. Now that Obama has renewed Cordray’s nomination, the Senate GOP is again promising to block any nominee unless the Bureau is watered down:
In a letter sent to President Obama on Friday, 43 Republican senators committed to refusing approval of any nominee to head the consumer watchdog until the bureau underwent significant reform. Lawmakers signing on to the letter included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.
Obstructionist GOP trying to block appointments indefinitely. It’s definitely past time for filibuster and other senate reforms.
Republicans and business groups told a federal appeals court Wednesday that President Barack Obama violated the Constitution earlier this year when he bypassed the Senate to fill vacancies in his administration.
Attorneys for the groups told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that Obama abused his power in January when he made recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.
“I would suggest there is a huge cloud hanging over the National Labor Relations Board right now,” said Noel Francisco, attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups challenging the action.
The case is an important test of presidential power and could determine whether the Senate can indefinitely block presidential appointments by refusing to adjourn. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky came to watch the hearing in a packed courtroom. McConnell and 46 other Senate Republicans filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing the appointments are invalid.
At issue: When is the Senate in session, when is it in recess and who gets to decide? Certain high-profile appointments must be confirmed by the Senate, but if lawmakers are away for the holidays or other breaks, the president can act on his own with a recess appointment.
The importance of the nearly $1 trillion in unexplained and unspecified cuts that Ryan and the Republican party are proposing, under the catch-all rubric of “Function 920: Allowances,” cannot be overestimated. These invisible cuts are crucial to the Republican claim that the Ryan budget proposal will drastically reduce the federal deficit (eliminating it entirely in the long run) and ultimately erase the national debt.
Ryan’s plan was passed 228-191 by the House on March 29, 2012, with no Democrats voting yes. On May 16, the Senate rejected the plan by a vote of 58-41. The vote among Senate Republicans was 41-4 in favor.
While the Ryan budget does specify cuts in programs serving the poor, many of whom are Democratic constituents (Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits), it hides under the abstruse veil of “Function 920 allowances” the cuts in programs popular with many other voters.
I prefer to have facts and details when someone is talking about slashing the deficit by almost $1 trillion. Of course, this isn’t half as important as getting that black man out of the White House at all costs!