Senate GOP blocks two Obama nominees, Dems hold fire in response
October 31st, 2013
05:00 PM ET
9 years ago

Senate GOP blocks two Obama nominees, Dems hold fire in response

Updated 10/31/2013 at 5:23 p.m. ET

(CNN) - Republicans blocked two high-profile presidential nominees on Thursday as the bitter fight over appointments escalated in the U.S. Senate, but Democrats held their fire and decided, for now, to forgo a change in rules to limit filibusters.

The GOP mounted filibusters against Judge Patricia Millett, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, and Rep. Melvin Watt, who was named to head the agency that oversees housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Democrats fell short in procedural votes called to move forward on the nominations, testing their patience and raising serious questions about how they might respond.

Although it was raised as a possibility, Democrats are not expected at this time to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" to change filibuster rules, two Senate Democratic leadership aides told CNN.

Many rank-and-file Democrats wanted the change, over objections from minority Republicans, to allow the Senate to approve appointments with a simple majority vote rather than the 60 now needed to proceed with a nomination.

But Democratic leaders are reluctant to engage a knock down fight with Republicans at the same time they need to move other legislative priorities through the Senate.

Next week, the Senate will take up a key piece of gay rights legislation, and Democrats believe they are just one vote shy getting it passed and don't want to jeopardize their prospects by angering Republicans with a rule change effort.

The Senate also will soon enough turn its attention back to the fiscal issues in desperate need of bipartisan cooperation.

Opposition to appointments

Republicans argued that Millett's appointment to the judicial post that has been a stepping stone for some to the U.S. Supreme Court was unnecessary.

They said the appeals panel now is evenly divided between judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents and doesn't have enough work to justify an additional member even though there are three vacancies.

Democrats said the filibuster was a transparent attempt to maintain conservative influence on the court.

Earlier in the day, Republicans also blocked Obama's nomination of Watt, a North Carolina Democrat, to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, an independent federal entity that has been in control of Fannie and Freddie since their taxpayer rescue last decade during the housing crisis.

Republicans argued Watt is not independent enough and lacks expertise to run the agency.

Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee more than half of all outstanding mortgages in the United States, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Opening from Biden

The push to change the rules appeared to get a boost when Vice President Joe Biden, who served in the Senate for decades, said it was "worth considering."

The opening from Biden reflects the thinking of many Democrats who want to push for the controversial change.

For instance, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, was frustrated with the Millett vote, especially.

"This is declaring war on the judicial branch. This is declaring war on the executive branch. It is inconsistent with the traditions of the Senate," he said. "This type of blockade cannot stand."

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, complained the fight was "all about ideology" and said he thought support was "growing for changing the rules when they play these games."

But other veteran Senate Democrats who have seen the majority change hands between the parties over the years are opposed, saying they want to preserve the right to filibuster in the future.

"I've never favored using the nuclear option," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, who chairs the Armed Services Committee and who is retiring from the Senate after this term.

The second-ranking Senate Republican warned that Democrats need to "think twice" about changing the rules.

Or, he said, the "next time there is a Republican president and Republicans hold a majority in the Senate then we could confirm another (Antonin) Scalia, another (Clarence) Thomas with 51 votes," Senator John Cornyn of Texas said, referring to the two conservative Supreme Court justices.

–CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Filed under: Senate • Senate Republicans
soundoff (164 Responses)
  1. Don Dishman

    I wonder which side of the mouth the GOP supporters will use after the 2014 elections? It appears they are in deep stuff and will lose a lot of seats, and rightfully so. They play with the business of this country like its some kind of parlor game, winner keep all. I hope that the folks that are fussing now continue to and vote in November 2014 for a new Speaker of the House of Representatives, a Democrat!!!

    October 31, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  2. Corey

    So the 28 judical nominees that the Democrats blocked, refused to vote on, filibustered, or denied during Baby Bush's 2 terms were OK but these are wrong for the GOP to do. Or look at what Mark Begich (D) out of Alaska had done and all his workings to block governmental progress by blocking many Armed Forces related bills at the committee level so that he could keep certain equipment and personnel in his district despite the recommendations of the Air Force and what would be best for US security. Libtards need to come off their pedestals and see their party is just as guilty as the tea baggers at stalling government until they get their way. If anything the GOP learned their obstruction tactics from the 8 years Baby Bush was in ofice.

    October 31, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. Ketsui

    The problem is the lack if intelligence causes people to vote for them...and states like Louisiana are still full of these people who are too stupid to think of improving their own lives. They'd rather just be told by a high end car salesman that they should vote for him and he will save them because they won't read about how he doesn't

    October 31, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  4. OrmondGeorge

    "Senate GOP blocks two Obama nominees, raising stakes in bitter fight"

    The real fight is going to be in the next election cycle when Congressional Republicans have to fight to hide their OBSTRUCTIONISM from the electorate.

    October 31, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  5. Data Driven


    "Partisan politics is a two sided affair and the leadership needs to correct the deficit."

    So what's your suggestion? - abolition of political parties and the institution of a monarchy?

    Partisan politics is as American as apple pie, bad lager, and pop divas. Pick a side. Think about issues and evolve a considered opinion. No one is above it all. One side is mostly right; it's your task to determine which side that is. Choose carefully.

    October 31, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  6. Ted

    If it wasn't for the gerrymandering going on in these southern states, we would not have this GOP Problem. TOO MANY people in these states pay no attention to the state governments and vote the same idiots into office without even knowing what the idiot is doing.

    October 31, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  7. Name

    I am SHOCKED!

    October 31, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  8. wish

    I wish someone would Block the nomination of Obama, that's the real problem.

    October 31, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    McCaskill is 100% correct: This is just another way to shut down the gov't.

    In fact, it's just secession by another name. Forced to accept that they'd never be able to secede in the manner attempted in the 1860's, they've switched over to trying to accomplish the same result by simply destroying the federal gov't from top to bottom, whether that be by defunding things so they cannot function properly or by preventing agencies from having chief executives, or by refusing to allow judicial appointments so that an entire branch of the federal gov't simply collapses under its caseload, etc. Call it what it is: secession...and the "South" trying to "rise again."

    October 31, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Republican. The party I and many others will never vote for again.

    October 31, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. here and back again

    Is this really any surprise? The GOP can't let anything go. They aren't stupid...they realize they have zero chance of getting a President elected until 2024... and this is the best they can to to try to stay relevant until then.

    October 31, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. John

    This has got to stop. You cannot drive the car from the back seat. Win the election and then you get in the Sitting in the back and putting your hands over the drivers eyes then demanding your way or else is very bad for the country and the well being of the country is why you are in DC – not to play political games. Enough!

    October 31, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. Matt

    I'm sick of both parties! Just get it done and stop behaving like little children whom won't cooperate and share toys in the sandbox. This grandstanding is getting nauseating.

    October 31, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "The Republicans apparently don't believe the polls of public opinion "

    Some don't. They're so deeply entrenched in the ideological fantasy world they've built around themselves that they refuse to believe anything that contradicts their delusions. Some, on the other hand, very much believe the polls and they are, in fact, the more dangerous of the two. Those are the ones who look at poll numbers and then try to undo what the polls indicate by enacting voter suppression laws and spending millions on misinformation campaigns, etc.

    October 31, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. Robert DeFrino

    It continues to be all about them, and it is pretty sad. They complain that government doesn't work; and then they purposely cause it not to work. If they would only do their job or respectfully resign. Are they all that stupid, or that full of it . . . or are we that stupid that we keep electing these hyprocrites that seem little more able than to recite a sound bite.

    October 31, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  16. fracingwac

    If I were the President right now, I'd walk out, and never look back. Leave it for the Republicans to clean up....they made this mess, he's just trying to keep the car with the broken axle moving......the Republicans have done NOTHING but cause a log-jam. They filibuster and stop any kind of progress, yet, they have nothing to's criminal what they are doing to our country!!!

    October 31, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  17. D

    The President and Congress must pass a budget before they go on any holiday vacation.
    The need to do the job they were elected to do.

    October 31, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  18. stevetall

    Republicans don't understand domestic terrorism. Time to spank them out of office. RIP, GOP.

    October 31, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  19. VJ

    Does anytime Obama's nomination ever got confirmed within a month??? Absolutely no... Minimum 6 months to year, this has become routine for republicans... On the other hand, if dems do this to republican, immediately dems will be called as villain. I think Harry Reid needs to use Nuclear option and demonstrate to the republicans that he his powerful..

    October 31, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  20. vic , nashville ,tn

    Government shutdown shows GOP’s true color, country first not in their mind. Even they said proudly we are here to stop Obama

    October 31, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. 1984

    I have seen what a conservative court does.. It allows BIG BUSINESS to buy the politician that they need to keep their GREED going.

    October 31, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  22. MickeyOregon

    It is frustrating, but on the other hand the Democrats started or at least ratcheted-up this whole nonsense with their vile Bork hearings. Hmmmmm... maybe Sibelius should have been stopped. Or Susan Rice. Or inept boobs like Kerry.

    October 31, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Kinard

    Love those republicans. Just love em. They scurry around in the dark like rats, then do their destruction while many can only hear the tiny nails on their germ laden paws scratching the walls. Many came from southern states, where bigotry and prejudice thrive. The damp warm climate is conducive to the molds and fungus that grows where the sun wont shine. The rats love this climate.

    October 31, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. Madison

    If repubs are planning to block all nominations for three years, then it is time to stop pulling punches and end the filibuster on nominations. period. mcconell lied to Majority Leader Reid when he promised that republicons would stop abusing the filibuster. He flat out said that he is only opposing the appointments to stop the president WHO WON A WIDE VICTORY from appointing people who will do what the people elected him to do. Like it or not....we have the worst supreme court in a century as the consequence of the election of 2004, but now the shoe is on the other foot republicons are trying to stack the courts even when they are not the winners.

    October 31, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. tony

    The problem that I see coming, is that the Tea Party will lose thenext election cycle, but foster an armed coup, using the religious influence they have so arduously instilled in our now all volunteer armed forces and police. It happened that way in Spain before WW II, and in most South American countries with US help. So why not here?

    October 31, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
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