Cornyn: Appointees Will 'Empower' Obama Agenda

Image: Cornyn: Appointees Will 'Empower' Obama Agenda

Sunday, 22 Dec 2013 02:16 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Democratic-controlled Senate is "jamming" President Barack Obama's agency appointees through to allow him to pursue his agenda, Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn charged after a slate of new hires have been easily confirmed.

"There's not a lot that's going to happen next year, and they realize the Senate is likely to flip," Cornyn told Politico. "So the way they empower the president to pursue his agenda is by jamming a bunch of these nominees through as the head of the various regulatory bodies and the judiciary."

On Friday, lawmakers, thanks to filibuster changes pushed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, confirmed appointees who will handle vital policies such as Middle East diplomacy, immigration, taxes, housing, homeland security, and military sexual assault.

Reid's so-called "nuclear option" allows appointees to be passed by a simple majority vote, ending the requirement that at least 60 votes are needed end a filibuster to advance nominations, except for those to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The change in filibuster rules has in my opinion a huge impact on the ability of the president to essentially move forward on his nominees — and to insulate the nominees from political pressure from the Senate with regard to how they will conduct themselves on future policies," said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

After Reid's plan was voted in, Democrats have confirmed nine Obama appointments, including that of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, senior State and Defense leaders, and a new housing financing agency chief. More than 235 pending appointments, are expected to be nominated again, but will likely be confirmed through the new filibuster rules.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the push was simply to fill government posts, not to help push for Obama's agenda items.

"We just looked at the key agencies where we had vacancies at the highest levels," said Durbin. "If you’re going to run this government effectively, regulations or not, you have to fill them."

Among the appointees are Phil Schiliro, described as a legislative leader, who will spend the next year trying to fix the flawed Obamacare rollout, and John Podesta, who will handle energy and climate change.

Secretary of State John Kerry will also get some help, including Anne Patterson, who was named as an assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs and Heather Higginbottom a deputy secretary who will manage budget cuts and diplomatic security reforms.

Patterson is the first person to be confirmed by the Senate to her post in more than a year.
The Pentagon will get incoming Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who will face issues such as addressing the Air Force's ongoing sexual assault scandals.

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