The Senate confirmed a long-delayed slate of govt and judicial nominees on Friday and Saturday, filling positions that been left open for months due to Republican obstruction.
The marathon Senate session, which bumped into the early hours of Saturday morning earlier than formally adjourning at simply after 4 am Japanese time, included affirmation votes for 41 ambassadors and 9 federal district courtroom judges nominated by President Joe Biden, according to Punchbowl News founder Jake Sherman.
Fairly the final day in session for the Senate. They confirmed 9 district courtroom judges, 41 ambassadors and 5 different positions. Additionally they invoked cloture on two extra circuit judges.@RahmEmanuel goes to Tokyo. 48-21 vote.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) December 18, 2021
Amongst these confirmed have been US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, US Ambassador to France Denise Campbell Bauer, and US Ambassador to the European Union Mark Gitenstein.
The Senate additionally confirmed its fortieth Biden-nominated choose, according to Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim, greater than any president in his first 12 months in workplace since Ronald Reagan.
The last-minute rush of confirmations on Friday — the final day of the Senate’s 2021 session — was an effort to work via a backlog of about 150 presidential nominees. Many diplomatic and nationwide safety posts stay open due to stonewalling from Senate Republicans and the sluggish tempo of nominations from the Biden administration. Regardless of Friday’s progress, lots of the nominees nonetheless within the backlog should be re-nominated by the president within the new session, additional delaying the method.
Republicans stalled confirmations to advance their very own agendas
The general means of confirming presidential nominees has turn out to be more and more troublesome in recent times, however Friday’s backlog was the results of a number of particular calls for from Republican senators.
Particularly, Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Marco Rubio have all held up Biden international service and nationwide safety nominees till their very own priorities have been assured a vote.
Most presidential nominees have’t been topic to the filibuster since a 2013 rule change (and none are as of 2017), so it’s not technically doable for a single Republican senator to dam the affirmation of a nominee outright. They will make it a grueling course of, nonetheless, by denying unanimous consent to substantiate nominations.
Particularly, whereas a single senator doesn’t have the facility to halt the method full cease — supplied the nominee has the assist of a minimum of 50 senators with the vp to interrupt a tie — they can open up the ground for debate. That takes up vital time within the Senate, which might be a problem at any time, however significantly when the affirmation backlog is so giant and the chamber has different main priorities to deal with.
“In previous years, many of those nominees would have sailed via with consent and cooperation, however this 12 months a handful of Republicans have hijacked the foundations of the Senate to sluggish the method down,” Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “It’s cynical, it’s completely pointless, and worst of all it’s damaging — critically damaging — to our nationwide safety.”
.@SenSchumer on confirming Biden nominees: “A handful of Republicans have hijacked the foundations of the Senate to sluggish the method down. It is cynical, it is completely pointless, and worst of all, it’s damaging, critically damaging to our nationwide safety.” pic.twitter.com/YzenPmylkg
— The Hill (@thehill) December 16, 2021
Previous to Friday, Cruz tried to strike a take care of Schumer to trade a vote on sanctions for Russia’s Nord Stream 2 fuel pipeline for votes to substantiate 16 ambassadors and State Division officers, with none luck. Whereas the US isn’t in favor of Nord Stream 2, a pure fuel pipeline operating from Russia to Germany, the Biden administration rescinded sanctions in opposition to the corporate constructing it to protect the US relationship with Germany, a key ally which has authorised the pipeline.
“I’ve made clear to each State Division official, to each state division nominee, that I’ll place holds on these nominees except and till the Biden administration follows the legislation and stops this pipeline and imposes the sanctions,” Cruz mentioned in August assertion.
Finally, Cruz secured his vote — it’s scheduled for January 14 — and agreed to launch his maintain on dozens of diplomatic nominations, which have been confirmed in a single day.
Additionally: That is exactly why Schumer didn’t take the Cruz provide to substantiate 16 folks. he obtained 41 ambassadors
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) December 18, 2021
Hawley has additionally tried Cruz’s stalling tactic, albeit with much less success. After the US’s disastrous pullout from Afghanistan in August, Hawley pledged to dam all of Biden’s nationwide safety and Pentagon nominees except Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin, Nationwide Safety Adviser Jake Sullivan, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken resigned their posts. That hasn’t occurred, however Hawley has threatened to carry up the affirmation course of “so long as it takes,” as he mentioned in early December. “If I’m nonetheless on the ground doing this in 2023, so be it, 2024, so be it, till any person is held accountable.”
Hawley and Cruz particularly might have broader causes for his or her obstruction — each have been accused of blocking the nominations a minimum of partially to place themselves as antagonists to Biden in potential 2024 runs.
Regardless of the challenges from Cruz and Hawley, Democrats pressed on with 56 whole voice votes, in keeping with the Washington Submit, in addition to a ground vote to substantiate Emanuel as ambassador to Japan.
Schumer, for his half, appeared fairly happy with the end result of the lengthy evening of voting.
“On the finish of the day, we can have invoked cloture on two circuit judges, confirmed 9 district courtroom judges, confirmed 41 ambassadors, and confirmed 5 different members of President Biden’s group,” he mentioned Saturday, in keeping with the Hill. “It’s been an extended day however an excellent day’s work. I thank my colleagues.”
Ambassadorships are important diplomatic positions
Along with Friday’s affirmation spree, the Senate additionally confirmed considered one of Biden’s highest-profile ambassadorial nominees on Thursday after Rubio agreed to permit the affirmation of Nicholas Burns as ambassador to China to proceed easily.
Burns, a profession diplomat who served beneath each Republicans and Democrats over a 30-year profession, together with as undersecretary of state from 2005 to 2008 and as US ambassador to NATO, was nominated in August; till this week, his place had gone unfilled for the previous 14 months amid growing US-China tensions.
Rubio had been holding Burns’s nomination hostage pending a vote on his laws to sanction items made by slave labor within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Area of China. The Senate handed the invoice unanimously on Thursday, and Biden has indicated he’ll signal it into legislation.
However the logic of holding key nominations over particular person legislative priorities, even once they’re associated, is opaque at greatest, and doubtlessly damaging at worst.
As Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) identified on the Senate floor in September, that form of obstruction prevents professionals who may assist accomplish these priorities, or a minimum of handle diplomatic relationships, from doing their jobs.
“It simply takes a whole lot of chutzpah for my colleagues to face right here on the ground and criticize the president’s conduct of international coverage on the similar time that they’re refusing to permit the President to have employees to conduct international coverage,” Murphy mentioned.
Equally, in keeping with Politico, European politicians had reportedly additionally grown pissed off by Cruz’s obstruction previous to Friday’s confirmations. “Cruz is obstructing all the things,” one senior EU official lamented.
What occurs subsequent?
After submitting for cloture on 22 Biden nominees up for affirmation, Schumer warned Thursday that “we might be again right here within the close to future doing this complete factor over once more.”
That’s as a result of, regardless of the variety of nominees confirmed Friday, lots of these nonetheless pending should return to Biden’s desk to be be re-nominated within the new 12 months — going via the identical committee course of and doubtlessly giving Republicans extra probabilities to slow-walk their affirmation.
Presently, the Senate is ready to reconvene January 3, and can vote on the affirmation of Gabriel Sanchez to the Ninth Circuit Court docket of Appeals.
In the long run, nonetheless, the affirmation course of might be revised to forestall lengthy delays. In accordance with Politico’s Andrew Desiderio, some senators are pushing for a rule change to forestall this kind of affirmation lag from occurring once more. A bipartisan group met Monday to debate potential rule modifications to forestall the form of obstruction that contributed to the present affirmation backlog, but it surely’s unclear what these modifications may appear to be.
Within the interim, Murphy advised Desiderio he’s anxious about future affirmation fights.
“My fear is that this isn’t going away, not simply on ambassadors,” Murphy mentioned. “I imply, everyone’s obtained a maintain on each company. So it simply doesn’t really feel like the foundations, as they stand now, work for nominees.”