Senate Democrats

Controversial Nominations? Not Quite.

On Thursday, the Senate will resume debate on the nomination of Patricia Smith to be Solicitor for the Department of Labor. Once all Senators have cast their votes on the confirmation of Ms. Smith’s nomination, the Senate will consider the nomination of Martha Johnson to be Administrator of the General Services Administration. 

It has been nine months since Johnson was first nominated to be the head of GSA. A former chief of staff for that agency during the Clinton administration, Johnson sailed through her confirmation hearing with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last summer. 
The unfortunate truth is that the story of Martha Johnson’s long road toward confirmation is not unusual.  In fact, more often than not it has become the norm. Let’s take a look at the facts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed cloture — a parliamentary procedure that breaks a filibuster and limits debate to 30 additional hours — on 14 nominees, including Smith and Johnson. Invoking cloture eats up valuable floor time that could be spent debating or voting on legislation.  However, cloture is vital to bring up a vote on a contentious bill or, as in this case, a nominee.
Are these nominations contentious? Not really.  Fourteen nominations on which Sen. Reid filed cloture turned out not to be controversial. Two-thirds of these nominees were subsequently confirmed with 70 or more votes.

  • Hilda Solis (cloture withdrawn; confirmed 80-17)
  • Chris Hill (cloture invoked; confirmed 73-23)
  • Cecilia Rouse (cloture withdrawn; confirmed by voice vote)
  • David Hayes (cloture failed 57-39; later confirmed by voice vote)
  • Harold Koh (cloture invoked 65-31; confirmed 62-35)
  • David Ogden (cloture withdrawn; confirmed 65-28)
  • Robert Groves (cloture invoked 76-16; confirmed 76-16)
  • Austan Goolsbee (cloture withdrawn; confirmed by voice vote)
  • William Sessions (cloture withdrawn; confirmed by voice vote)
  • David Hamilton (cloture invoked 70-29; confirmed 59-39)
  • Ben Bernanke (cloture invoked 77-23; confirmed 70-30)
  • Patricia Smith (cloture invoked, 60-32)
  • Martha Johnson (cloture filed)

"Republican Senators refuse to let this body hold a vote on these highly capable people the president has asked to serve in those roles," said Reid. "We all know Republicans have dedicated themselves to grinding government to a halt. They do so openly and proudly, and boast about their aversion to compromise."