Yesterday on NBC’s Meet The Press, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was having a hard time understanding why the Majority Leader is ready to change the rules to prevent filibusters on executive branch nominees:
We don’t all agree on everything, and they elect all of us to come to Washington, and we have some big disagreements and big debates. But sooner or later, when it comes to nominations, as I’ve indicated, the president hasn’t lost anybody. He hasn’t lost anybody. Are they saying they don’t want us to even debate these nominations?
I can answer that question: No! Democrats are saying they don’t want Republicans to abuse the rules on unlimited debate to kill these nominations.
More importantly, McConnell’s answer concedes the main point.
He says with pride: “The president hasn’t lost anybody.”
He is not arguing the president should lose people. He is admitting the president should be able to staff his own administration barring egregious circumstances.
His words will make it very difficult for his own party members to explain why they would block this next round of nominations scheduled for votes tomorrow, should they choose to filibuster again.
Earlier in the interview, McConnell did express his opposition to Obama’s nominations to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. He suggested his opposition did not amount to a “genuine provocation” unlike when Democrats were resisting right-wing lifetime judicial nominations in 2005.
But he did not bother explaining to the public what exact reason he had to oppose these people:
It really kind of comes down to three appointments that the federal courts have told us were unconstitutionally recess appointed. Two members of the N.L.R.B. and the C.F.P.B.
This is not a complaint about the people he nominated. It’s a complaint about the process of a prior appointment, which occurred without a Senate vote while the body was effectively in recess but conducting “pro forma” sessions.
And McConnell need not worry about that procedural question being resolved. That is happening. Republicans won the argument about recess appointment process at the appellate court level. The Supreme Court has yet to review, but it will soon.
For the Senate to grant up-or-down votes on the nominees in question has nothing to do with resolving the constitutional question about the recess appointment process – a process President Obama only pursued because Republicans were blindly blocking the nominations without a good reason in the first place.
McConnell is trying to employ as much circular logic as possible to mask the issue. But he’s spun himself around once too many times when he acknowledges presidents generally deserve to staff their administrations as they see fit.