In a speech on the Senate floor today, Majority Leader Harry Reid criticized Senate Republicans for neglecting their “constitutional obligation” to confirm presidential nominees. As People For’s Marge Baker wrote last week inUS News & World Report, unprecedented obstruction from Senate Republicans has led to a vacancy crisis in the federal courts and contributed to Americans’ loss of confidence in Congress.
In his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Obama specifically called out Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who after complaining about the slow speed of Senate confirmations is now threatening to block every one of the president’s nominees.
Here are Sen. Reid’s remarks:
Americans believe Congress is broken. And it’s no mystery why.
Political divisions in this chamber are so great they often prevent the Senate from performing even its most fundamental duties.
The divisions are so great they have prevented this body from confirming presidential nominees – our constitutional obligation.
These days, it’s no longer enough to be a qualified nominee.
It’s no longer enough to have bipartisan support.
And in the case of judicial nominees, it’s no longer enough to be reported unanimously out of committee.
Last year, my Republican colleagues blocked or delayed scores of outstanding nominees. Why? Because they want to defeat President Obama, who made those nominations. That’s their number one goal.
And at the end of last year, Republicans refused to allow votes on 16 judicial nominees who were reported out of committee unanimously.
Unfortunately, this year may bring more of the same. Already this year, some Republicans have gone to the floor and threatened to drag out the confirmation process for every nominee for the rest of the year.
This Republican obstructionism is supposedly retribution for President Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray – an eminently qualified nominee – to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
With a qualified leader at the helm, the Bureau will be able to effectively protect middle class families from the greed and excess of big Wall Street banks.
It will not impact smaller financial services firms that help Americans who don’t use banks. And it will not impact banks that deal fairly with consumers.
But it will serve as a watchdog against the kinds of abuses that nearly collapsed our financial system in 2008.
President Obama’s right to recess appoint Mr. Cordray is protected in the Constitution.
President Bush had the same right to make recess appointments – even though Democrats kept the Senate in pro forma session.
Bush didn’t exercise that right – or challenge the pro forma sessions in court – because Democrats worked with him to confirm hundreds of his nominees.
Unfortunately, Republicans have refused to work with President Obama as Democrats worked with President Bush.
Instead they are threatening political payback and more delays.
This brand of obstructionism is the reason Americans are disillusioned with Congress. They believe Congress can’t get anything done.
It will take collaboration between Democrats and Republicans to turn that perception around.
We should show the American people that with cooperation between our two parties, this body can accomplish great things.