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End-of-session executive calendar maneuvering

January 4th, 2010, 04:01 am admin Leave a comment Go to comments

In another look back at the Senate’s end-of-session flurry of activity, let’s examine what happened on the 24th, when the Senate approved a raft of nominations by unanimous consent, agreed to hold some over into the second session (also by unanimous consent), and returned others to the President.

First of all, why the race against the adjournment at all? Rule XXXI tells us:

  1. Nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President; and if the Senate shall adjourn or take a recess for more than thirty days, all nominations pending and not finally acted upon at the time of taking such adjournment or recess shall be returned by the Secretary to the President, and shall not again be considered unless they shall again be made to the Senate by the President.

With the Senate adjourning its first session sine die on the 24th, all pending nominations had to be disposed of in one way or another. Hence this last minute burst of confirmations:

Confirmed the following Exec Cal items:
#264, #280, #303, #315, #429, #478, #489, #490, #582, #583, #584, #585, #586-587, #593, #594, #595, #596, #597, #598, #599, #600, #601, #611, #612, #613, #621, #624, #626, #632, #633, #634, #635, #636, #637, #638, #638 and all nominations on the Secretary’s desk in the Coast Guard, Foreign Service and NOAA.

What are the actual names behind “Exec Cal items” #264, #280, etc.? Well, bmaz — writing in Emptywheel’s slot at Firedoglake — lists them for you.

Normally, I’d point you to the Executive Calendar itself (PDF) to look them up, but of course those names and numbers have now been cleared from the calendar, since the nominations have been disposed of.

But if you do take a look at the Executive Calendar, you’ll see that it’s still quite full of pending nominations that, in theory, should have been returned to the President at the end of the session, but weren’t. Here’s why:

Mr. CARDIN. As in executive session, I ask unanimous consent that all the nominations received by the Senate during the 111th Congress, first session, remain in status quo, notwithstanding the December 24, 2009, adjournment of the Senate, and that the provisions of rule XXXI, paragraph 6, of the Standing Rules of the Senate, with the following exceptions: PN1119, COL David Teeples; Calendar No. 32, Dawn Johnsen; Calendar No. 205, Mary Smith; Calendar No. 312, Christopher Schroeder; Calendar No. 488, Edward Chen; Nos. 491 and 492, Craig Becker, and Calendar No. 579, Louis Butler.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Pryor). Without objection, it is so ordered.

The upshot? Everyone not confirmed on the 24th has, by unanimous consent, had their nomination held over for consideration during the second session, with the exceptions noted above.

Dawn Johnsen’s nomination has been a flash point for a long time (and see bmaz for more on that). What the particular problems were with the rest, I’m not entirely certain, offhand.

But as you can see, nominees about whom there is some controversy — whether real or manufactured — were easily enough plucked from out of the unanimous consent request, and have so had their nominations effectively killed, unless the President should choose to renominate them. That might lead someone to question why, for instance, the nomination of Erroll Southers — which apparently caused such personal irritation for Jim DuhMint — was allowed to be carried forward into the next session with DuhMint’s consent.

DuhMint’s position, at least up to this point, has basically been that his objection wasn’t so much to Southers personally, but rather stemmed from his desire to have a floor debate about TSA policy toward the unionization of its workers. Of course, now that someone has come up with something on Southers himself, I have little doubt that DuhMint will shift gears and insist that this — or the possibility that something like this existed and might eventually be discovered — was part of his reasoning all along. He may end up needing to try to pull that off, given the backlash against his intransigence created by the attempted Christmas Underpants Bombing.

But do keep in mind that DuhMint is (regrettably enough) a Senator, and therefore could have entered his objections to unionization (or Southers himself) on the record at pretty much any time, on any day. And he may very well have done so on several occasions, for all I know or care. But DuhMint apparently wanted “debate,” meaning he wanted some other Senator to answer his objections, for some reason. Then again, the chances that DuhMint would have bothered to remain on the floor to listen to those answers is probably pretty slim. And the chances that he’d have kept himself open to those arguments and allowed himself to be swayed? Almost certainly zero or thereabouts.

And again, I’m not aware of any objections DuhMint ever made to Southers personally, nor even to the necessity of  ”debating” his nomination so that his personal record could be more thoroughly examined. The objection, as I understood it, was over matters of personnel policy only. So to the extent that DuhMint ends up leaning on this latest discovery as justification for his hold, that’ll have to be taken with a gigantic lump of salt.

Odds that the traditional press will notice, convey that nuance to a mass audience, and challenge any attempt DuhMint might make to rewrite the history of this hold? Also almost certainly zero or thereabouts.

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