Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama has released the "holds" he had placed on every one of President Barack Obama's nominees, his office said Monday.
"The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House's attention on two issues that are critical to our national security — the Air Force's aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI's Terrorist Device Analytical Center," Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement released to news organizations Monday night.
Shelby wants the tanker and the new FBI explosives center to be built in Alabama. Senators frequently block individual appointments, but Shelby's blanket hold was unusual.
Now that he has gotten Obama's attention, Graffeo said, "Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday, "If you needed one example of what's wrong with this town, it might be that one senator can hold up 70 qualified individuals to make government better because he didn't get his earmarks."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last week that Shelby's move was holding up about 70 appointments, including a critical top Defense Department position overseeing deployments to the war in Afghanistan.
A senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Shelby has built his career on steering spending "earmarks" to Alabama.
Shelby can't single-handedly defeat Obama's nominations. But by forcing time-consuming votes on each one, he can delay them indefinitely.
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