February 12th, 2010
12:52 PM ET
11 years ago

CNN Fact Check: How transparent is the Senate's hold process?

(CNN) - On Tuesday, CNN confirmed that Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, had lifted a majority of the holds that he had placed on President Barack Obama's nominations the Friday before. Obama referenced this issue during Tuesday's White House press briefing, stating, "One senator, as you all are aware, had put a hold on every single nominee that we had put forward, due to a dispute over a couple of earmarks in his state."

The president's statement was in direct contrast to a statement by Shelby's office, and the CNN Fact Check Desk wanted to get to the bottom of it.

Read the facts and get the bottom line after the jump:

Fact Check: Is the process of placing a nominee on hold a transparent process?

- There is no central place for a senator to register a "hold" placed on a nominee. The process is subject to reporting by each party's leadership.
- With regard to the president's comment about Shelby's holds, the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, insists that Shelby placed a hold on all pending nominees on the Executive Calendar. (The Executive Calendar lists the business available for consideration on the Senate floor.) Reid's office states that more than 80 nominations were delayed by Shelby at one point.
- Jonathan Graffeo, a spokesman for Shelby, said that the senator never placed a "blanket hold" on all the nominees. Instead, Graffeo maintains that the senator placed holds on 47 nominees, and that "he did not object to the nominations of uniform military personnel, federal judges, or Treasury nominees." The stated purpose of these holds was to bring attention to two projects: the Air Force's aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI's Terrorist Devices Analytical Center. Shelby denies that these projects are "earmarks."
- On Monday, Shelby released all but three of his holds. Those still in place affect the nominations of Terry Yonkers to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations and environment; Frank Kendall III, to be deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and technology; and Erin Conaton, to be under secretary of the Air Force.

Bottom Line: The process of placing a nominee on hold is not a transparent one. There is no central place to register a hold that a senator places on a nominee, so there is no way for CNN to crunch the numbers and tell if Senator Shelby's office is correct, or Senator Reid's office is. Somewhere between 47 and 80 nominees were placed on hold by Shelby.

–CNN's Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report

Got something that needs checking? E-mail factcheck@cnn.com

Filed under: Fact Check • Senate
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. a little sad

    These holds should be reported in one central location, no matter which party is placing the hold.

    As a citizen, I want to know who is obstructing these nominations. No one senator should be able to hold up the process by him/herself.

    February 12, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. Joe from Virginia

    That's just appalling. Unless someone is a saboteur, how can anyone holding office in the US Govt., having taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, take the pledge of allegiance, act to delay the appointment of so many individuals?

    February 12, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. Orange Curtain, CA

    What is the reason why Shelby felt the need to hold-up the process for so many low level positions? Just to be rude and obstructionist to make his Neo-Confederates happy.

    February 12, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Another worthless republican trying to get earmarks, and then will condemn the president if he gets them. As a national embarrassment to the wingnut nation, Shelby should retire now that his game has been found out.

    February 12, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Navy Vet

    What does it matter if it was 47 or 80, it's ridciulous. One or two, but dozens.

    Can we say political agenda and obstructionism?

    February 12, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Let me guess. . . This is another example of real media reporting facts that would Fox avoid.

    February 12, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    Senator Shelby? Alabama?

    I'm from NC and I can smell that stink all the way up here. Another greedy obstructionist. It will go on as long as the slow thinking backward people of the south keep putting these blowhards in office.

    February 12, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  8. Obama mama

    Obama has nominated a bunch of stinkers in the past. Let's find out more about the current crop. Come on CNN.

    February 12, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    All politicians who perform acts like this, that are detrimental to the U.S., need to be called out. Shelby had it coming, as did DeMint.

    February 12, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  10. Rayne Williams

    So, he doesn't object to the nominations of military personnel, but still has a hold on an assistant secretary of the Air Force. Riiiight.

    February 12, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Eleanor

    It is patently ABSURD that one Senator can do this! And Shelby's reasons are as specious and despicable. He wants to have the govenment be able to award a US Tanker program to a foreign corporation...Airbus!!! Why are the American people not OUTRAGED at this?? Hello? 10% of our population is unemployed...exactly because of the bankrupt policies of the Repugnant party and people think it is okay for one GOP Senator to try to do this?? I ask again...WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?

    February 12, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  12. hobart

    Just another splendid example of the Party of No's hypocrisy. Let's obstruct by any mechanism possible anything and everything this administration proposes, and let's deny it and hope no one notices. Let's trade our holds on administration nominees for earmarks, pork, moolah, and big bucks for our constituents, then criticize the administration for excess spending, and hope no one notices our hypocrisy. Let's all vote against the stimulus bill, but let's all take credit for bring home those stimulus $$ to our constituents, and hope no one notices our hypocrisy.

    Why do Republicans hate America?

    February 12, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. Jerry - Florida

    Come on CNN. You've been around for a while. You know that President NObama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reed, etc., etc., are the biggest elected liars ever.

    Case in point #1: Biden is taking and giving credit, mostly to Mr. NObama for the success of the Iraq war.

    Case in Point #2: They are still blaming Mr. Bush for 3 trillion in debt added last year and this year? Odd, don't you think? Mr. Biden meanwhile was in Iraq taking credit for how well things are going there. Both Mr. Biden and Mr. NObama were against the surge which changed the course of this particular war. In fact, Mr. Biden wanted to divide the country into 3 areas. So, we can imagine any success in Iraq, President NObama will attempt to take credit for, and any problems will be attributed to Mr. Bush.

    And the lists goon and on...

    Mr. NObama, Biden and the rest of their ilk should be ashamed. But, we Americans know better.

    Last but not least, CNN, what are you afraid of? Why can't you REALY enlighten the voters of America?

    America, please don't be afraid to speak and act your mind, before President NObama and his morons in Washington take this country over the precipice.

    America, PLEASE stay tuned.

    February 12, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  14. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Shelby is nothing but a dirt bag and needs to go.

    February 12, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. BILL, WI

    Politics as usual. If it is an unknowable quantity why did Pres Obama include that specious piece of information in his speech.

    February 12, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. Keith Nelson

    The GOP version of a senator: If Obama's for it, I'm against it and going to slow it down or try to stop it. And, I'm for small government as long as more money – especially DOD money flows to my state.

    February 12, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. James

    That is a Oxy Moron.

    To use Senate and Transparency in the same sentence.
    That is like saying Obam and Transparency or Bush and Transparency.


    February 12, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  18. HypocriCNN/FOX Nuisense Are Antichrists Of News!

    Senator Richard Shelby R-Alabama Has The Characteristics Of A Skunk! He Nor The Rest Of His Cohorts In The Republican Senate Were Ever Intending To Be Transparent About Anything. By The Same Nerve, Would Demand Such Of The Obama Administration.

    February 12, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  19. BeverlyNC

    The media should be all over Senator Shelby holding up appointees just so he can get pork fo his state. Worse- what he wants – FBI counter-terrorism center there, weapons development there etc os NOT supported by the FBI or the Dept of Defense.

    Shelby is showing the true soul of the Republican Party – obstruct, lie, blackmail, and do everything you can to keep President Obama from restoring our nation.

    Republicans do NOT want any healthcare reform, ANY re-regulation of the banks, ANY tax on the Wall St bonuses, ANY jobs bill and have just now introduced eliminationg Medicare and Social Security in the House!!!!!

    America do you not yet see that Republicans are against YOU. They care NOTHING about the People of this country and the desperate circumstances we face. They only care about themselves, their wealth, their power, and keeping the high life going for their rich white buddies at the banks, insurance companies, and big coporations.

    Republicans have betrayed the American people and we need to rid Congress of them in November so we can move the welfare of the PEOPLE forward.

    February 12, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. D. Bunker

    I love how Shelby claims his holds aren't about earmarks but about "national defense." Somehow I suspect he wouldn't be placing holds for military projects outside his state. In fact, I'll bet there are some projects outside his state that are not progressing as fast as some would like. Lets see if he if uses any holds to bring attention to those out of state projects.

    February 12, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. Richard E. Locke

    It would seem reasonable for the Senate to adopt a rule to prevent one Senator out of 100 from freezing all presidential nominations. For example, one senator cannot a filibuster make without 41 other senators concurring. On the other hand, holding up a few nominations seems to be acceptable Senate practice for political wheeling and dealing.

    A rule might be that one senator can freeze X nominations (perhaps divide the number of nominations by 100). It would also be helpful to make the "freeze" transparent, publishing which senator is freezing which nominations. Unfortunately, Senate rules are seldom changed, because it takes a super majority to concur. It's our shame that this tradition-encrusted body is so unrepresentative and undemocratic, talking almost everything to death. rel

    February 12, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. Marie MD

    shelby is from the State of Al-Abama (thanks Jon Stewart). Holding appointments is akin to being a terrorist or a traitor. Take your pick.
    Complaining that the administration doesn't have people in place when you and your repug fiends are the ones standing in its way is grounds for being mowed down!

    February 12, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. Tony T

    So Obama just lied again or made up his own facts to suit his goals??? so unusual. NOT!!!

    February 12, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |