Faced with an unprecedented level of obstruction in the Senate, the President announced his intention to recess appoint fifteen nominees to fill critical administration posts. While the President respects the critical role the Senate plays in the appointment process, he was no longer willing to let another month go by with key economic positions unfilled, especially at a time when our country is recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Many of these fifteen individuals have enjoyed broad bipartisan support, but have found their confirmation votes delayed for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications. It has more to do with an obstruction-at-all-costs mentality that we’ve been faced with since the President came into office. Because of political posturing, these fifteen appointees have waited an average of 214 days for Senate confirmation.
This opposition got so out of hand at one point that one senator put a blanket hold on all of the President’s nominees in an attempt to win concessions on two projects that would benefit his state. And another nominee’s confirmation was delayed by one senator for more than eight months because of a disagreement over a proposed federal building in his home state. When that nominee was finally given the vote she deserved, she was confirmed 96 to 0. When you attempt to prevent the government from working effectively because you didn’t get your way, you’re failing to live up to your responsibilities as a public servant.
To put this in perspective, at this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month. And cloture has been filed 16 times on Obama nominees, nine of whom were subsequently confirmed with 60 or more votes or by voice vote. Cloture was not filed on a single Bush nominee in his first year. And despite facing significantly less opposition, President Bush had already made 10 recess appointments by this point in his presidency and he made another five over the spring recess.
A few more numbers to put this in perspective:
- These fifteen nominees have been waiting a total of 3,204 days or almost nine years to start their respective jobs.
- Even the most recently nominated of these fifteen individuals has been waiting 144 days or nearly five months.
- Jeffrey Goldstein was nominated to serve as the top domestic finance official at Treasury, a crucial position for fixing the economy and preventing another financial crisis. Goldstein has been waiting 248 days or over 8 months.
- Jacqueline Berrien was nominated to serve as Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC currently lacks a quorum and cannot fulfill its mandate to protect American workers from discrimination. Berrien has been waiting 254 days or over 8 months.
- Craig Becker and Mark Pearce were nominated to serve on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which protects American workers from unfair labor practices. The five member board has been trying to operate with only two members. Becker and Pearce have been waiting for 261 days or over 8 months.
The roadblocks we’ve seen in the Senate have left some government agencies like the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission impaired in fulfilling their mission. These agencies can now get back to working for the American people.
These nominees will remain pending before the Senate for what we hope will be the expeditious confirmation that candidates of their caliber deserve. But we also hope that this politically motivated gridlock comes to an end, because each day we dedicate to a strategy aimed at gumming up the works of our government is another day we aren’t doing right by the American people.
Jen Psaki is the White House's Deputy Communications Director