Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that the Republicans would not prevent votes on Secretary of Labor nominee Tom Perez and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator nominee Gina McCarthy. But he said the Republicans would move to block votes on President Obama’s five nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.
“Both of these highly controversial nominees (Perez and McCarthy) already have enough votes to clear a 60-vote hurdle,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday.
All seven nominees have been sparked determined Republicans opposition but the Obama picks have been aggressively pushed by liberal activists groups, particularly Big Labor.
The stalled nominations are reportedly the main reason for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., renewed threat to change the Senate rules to end 60-vote filibusters. Reid reportedly has just enough Democratic votes to do that and is meeting today with his caucus to decide whether to go ahead. McConnell offered dropping the filibuster on Perez and McCarthy to defuse the situation.
Perez, who is currently the Justice Department’s top civil rights lawyer, was approved by a Senate committee in May but his nomination has been in limbo since then. For more on why Perez is controversial see my posts here, here, here, here, here and here.
The NLRB currently has only three of its five seats filled — and the recess appointments of two of those boardmembers, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, were declared unconstitutional by an appeals court in January.
The term of the third, Chairman Mark Pearce, ends next month. Obama has re-nominated the three along with two Republicans, Harry Johnson and Philip Miscimarra.
A Senate committee approved the nominees in May, but Republicans have objected to voting on them. They note the Supreme Court will weigh in on the appeals court ruling later this year and no vote should happen before then.
“Senate Democrats are getting ready to do permanent damage to the Senate in order to confirm three nominees that federal courts have said were unlawfully appointed,” McConnell said.
UPDATE: McConnell’s office says the Senate Republican leader is not opposing all five NLRB nominees, just Block and Griffin because of their recess appointments. He would not be opposed to votes on Pearce, Johnson or Miscimarra.
That stance would likely have little impact on the gridlock over the NLRB nominations though, since Democrats would be unlikely to go along with votes on just those three. Johnson and Miscimarra are Republicans and confirming them would give the board a 2-1 GOP quorum even with Pearce.
McConnell’s office also disputes the characterization of the senator as offering to drop the filibuster on Perez and McCarthy as a concession to Reid. There was no quid pro quo involved. McConnell was just acknowledging that he did not have the votes in the GOP caucus to block either one.
“He would not have even disclosed that we don’t have the votes to sustain a filibuster against Perez if we didn’t think that (Reid) was deadly serious about this,” a McConnell aide said. “McConnell meets with Reid everyday and he’s pretty adept at reading the signs. Everything points to (Reid) actually doing something on this.”