by Jeremy Leaming
Republican senators, in brazen fashion, stepped up their obstructionism of the administration’s nominees this week. First, Republicans successfully blocked an up-or-down vote on one of the president’s judicial nominees, and now they’ve scuttled his selection to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The Senate voted 53-45 to invoke cloture, falling short of the 60 votes needed to force an up-or-down vote on the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray (pictured) to head the agency, created to crack down on corporate malfeasance, and as The New York Times reports, “one of the administration’s main responses to the financial crisis.”
Republicans have attacked the Bureau, whose creation was advocated by Harvard University professor and now Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, since its inception, demanding significant changes to the agency, which would effectively hobble its oversight authority.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), The Huffington Post reports, blasted Republicans for their ongoing efforts to protect Wall Street power. Brown said his Republican colleagues are “almost always flacking for Wall Street. It never ceases to amaze me.”
In comments at the White House, President Obama slammed Republican-led obstructionism, and suggested he may use a recess appointment to put Cordray to work, The Washington Post reports.
Obama said, "We are not giving up on this. We will not allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected from unscrupulous operators."
The president also knocked senators for denying "well-qualified" judicial nominees up-or-down votes.
Taking to the Senate floor to push for Cordray's nomination, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) lauded Cordray for “looking out for the middle class. He’s looking out for homeowners who have been scammed by mortgage servicers. He’s looking out for pensioners who’ve lost their pensions at the hands of Wall Street recklessness.”
TPM reports that Democrats are making a “public issue out of the GOP’s vow to hamstring the agency,” noting that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has “hinted at a recess appointment. Obama, Schumer said, should do ‘everything within his power to get Cordray on board.’”
On Tuesday, Republicans successfully blocked the president’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit. ACS President Caroline Fredrickson blasted that action as “ushering in an unfortunate era of unprecedented obstructionism.”
Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen takes issue with some reporting that suggests Republican obstructionism of the president’s nominations is not unprecedented. Politico, for example, concludes that Republicans are simply employing tactics Democrats used when President George W. Bush was in office.
Benen cites research from TPM’s Brian Beutler showing that “obstructionism soared as Republicans abused the rules like no party in American history. Consider this tidbit: cloture was invoked 63 times in 2009 and 2010, which isn’t just the most ever, it’s more than the sum total of instances from 1919 through 1982. That’s not a typo.”
Much of the political world would have the public believe that the Senate status quo is just normal operating procedure for the institution. That’s plainly false. The Senate wasn’t designed to work this way; it didn’t use to work this way; and it can’t work this way.