Senate Democrats

Reid: Bush Holding Dozens Of Nominations Hostage

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the Administration’s stonewalling of important nominations, ahead of President’s Bush’s scheduled remarks Thursday on these nominees.   

Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery: 

“Yesterday morning I received a phone call from my friend Steve Walther.  Mr. Walther is one of two pending Democratic nominees for the Federal Election Commission.  He and the other Democrat, Bob Lenhard, have served on the FEC for almost two years. They have done an outstanding job.  The FEC is critically important because it enforces our nation’s campaign finance laws.  Both of these fine nominees lost their jobs at the end of the year because the Republicans refused to permit an up or down vote on their own nominee to the FEC, Hans Von Spakovsky.  That is, the Republicans are filibustering their own nominee.

“The record is full of remarks by my Republican colleagues characterizing the up-or-down vote as the gold standard of reasonableness in Senate process.  That’s apparently not the view, however, if one of their nominees would actually lose a majority vote.  If that’s the case, then the Republicans make hostages of nominees who do have majority support.  Republicans won’t allow a vote on our Democrats unless we approve their failed nominee.

“The fact that the FEC nominees – including Steve – have not been approved rests squarely with the White House and the Republicans.  I’d like to put two recent editorials which discuss the Republican blockade in the record.  I can gather one thing from the President’s unwillingness to resolve the FEC problem.  And that is that Republicans would rather have no election watchdog in place during an election where they are not favored to win.

“This background on the FEC makes Steve’s call to me particularly remarkable.  Steve called me to tell me he had been invited to the White House Thursday morning to have breakfast with the President.  The purpose of the breakfast is to call on the Democratic Senate to approve his nomination to the FEC.  The President in fact is hoping to have breakfast with all the nominees now pending in the Senate in an effort to force confirmations.

“Even for someone who is getting used to living in the alternative universe of the Bush Administration, this perversion of reality took me aback.  If the President sought to actually accomplish Steve’s nomination, he would allow it to be voted upon.  Instead, he invited Steve to breakfast.

“The effort it took to invite my Democratic friends and other nominees to the White House is truly a waste.  The President’s Thursday breakfast really only needed one attendee.  That’s because only one nominee really matters to the President.  It should really just be an intimate breakfast between the President and Steven Bradbury.

“Why do I say that?   I say that because of all the nominees the President will profess to care about at this breakfast, Steven Bradbury stands above all others in the President’s esteem.  And I am not guessing at that.  The White House told me so.

“Before the Christmas holiday, I attempted to work out a deal with the White House that would have given recess appointments or confirmation to nominees that the President will host Thursday morning.  For example, I offered to allow the President to recess appoint nominees to the Federal Aviation Administration, to the Chemical Safety Board and to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.  These are all nominations where we will be unable to confirm the nominees for a full term.  That’s because to do so would greatly limit the ability of a new President to change the direction of those boards through new appointments. 

“Take one example – the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. The seven members of the Fed receive 14-year terms.  Democrats – and I think the majority of Americans – think that the nation desperately needs a new direction on the economy.  I don’t think they want to ensure that the legacy of the President’s bad economic policies live on for 14 years through his Fed nominees.  So we offered a recess appointment so that the President would have his nominee through the end of this Administration, but we wouldn’t bind a new president’s ability to remake the Fed.

“I also offered to also confirm the over 84 nominees on the calendar, including the President’s two nominees to the Council on Economic Advisors.  Those other nominees included:

  • Julie Myers at the Department of Homeland Security;
  • the head of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms;
  • Four Department of Defense Assistant Secretaries;
  • the Deputy Director of the National Drug Control Policy;
  • the Director of the Violence Against Women Office;
  • an Assistant Attorney General;
  • an Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade;
  • the Director of the Census; and
  • the Solicitor for the Department of Labor, to name just some of them.

“Do you know how the President responded to this offer?  He said that unless I would agree to allow him to recess appoint Steven Bradbury, he wouldn’t make a deal – he didn’t care if that meant no one got confirmed.  He was willing to forgo the 84-plus nominees and the offers of recess appointments if he couldn’t install Mr. Bradbury.

“When the President is willing to vote so many of his own people – including four Assistant Secretaries of Defense and the Fed – off the island for one nominee, you know that person must be special.  And special he is.  My colleague Senator Durbin plans to expound upon the unique characteristics of this nominee that led the President to hold him in such singular esteem.

“Mr. Bradbury is the lawyer who loves to give the President the answer he wants regardless of the law, regardless of its impact on our nation and regardless of what it does to our standing in the world.  Mr. Bradbury is nominated to be the Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.  This rather routine name masks the power of this position.  This office issues legal opinions which are binding on the Executive Branch.

“We know a lot about how Mr. Bradbury would discharge his duties in this post because he has held it in an acting capacity.  And in that capacity, Mr. Bradbury issued legal opinions that condoned this Administration’s indefensible positions on interrogation and torture.  He is not qualified to hold a position of trust in our government.  Period.

“I’d like to close by taking about who wasn’t invited to the President’s breakfast tomorrow.  My nominee to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – who I recommended in early September – failed to get an invite.  In fact, the President has chosen to do nothing with her nomination.  She is not pending in the Senate because the White House doesn’t want to send a Democrat for a Democratic NRC seat. 

“My two nominees for the Securities and Exchange Commission weren’t invited to breakfast either.  The President has so far failed to nominate them for these Democratic positions.  Perhaps that suits the Administration because as long as they sit on my recommendations, they enjoy a Republican-only Securities and Exchange Commission.

“And these aren’t the only Democratic nominations that the White House has failed to act upon.  The President has failed to act on my recommendation of Democrats to:

  • the Federal Election Commission;
  • the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board;
  • the African Development Board;
  • the Commodities Futures Trading Commission;
  • the Social Securities Trustees;
  • the Broadcasting Board of Governors;
  • the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and
  • the Corporation for National and Community Service, to name a few.

“I believe that competent, ethical and intelligent individuals who seek to enter public service deserve the attention of this body.  During my time as Majority Leader, I have worked hard to ensure that they got it.  As we near of any Administration – and this was certainly true at the end of the Clinton Administration – some nominations simply won’t be approved.  This again is due to the fact that a new President – hopefully of a different party than the one now occupying the White House – deserves the ability to take our government in a new direction.

“That said, I have offered a number of accommodations to the President so that he might have his people through his own Administration.  As I noted above, the spirit of compromise I brought to this endeavor was not returned in kind by the President.  It was just more of the same ‘it’s my way or the highway’ that has so characterized this President’s mode of negotiating.

“In the interests of this nation and despite the stubbornness of the President, I went ahead confirmed over 84 of the President’s nominees in December.  But I had to keep the Senate in pro-forma session to block the Bradbury appointment.  That necessarily meant no recess appointments could be made.

“My effort to rise above the acrimony and ensure the functioning of the government was not met with thanks by this President.  No, tomorrow it will be met by just another of this Administration’s political stunts, misplaced blame and failure to take responsibility for its own actions.  I hope that the attendees at the President’s breakfast on Thursday urge him to take a new course with what little time is left.  It is upon that which their jobs actually depend.”