Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

President's Nominees Still Face Difficulties in Senate

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

President's Nominees Still Face Difficulties in Senate

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The White House and its allies are formulating ways to take maximum advantage of this week's change in the Senate's filibuster rules to rapidly confirm more than 240 judicial and executive nominees awaiting approval.

Democrats hope to break a logjam in President Barack Obama's appointments, allowing him to push ahead with key parts of his agenda. But they also acknowledge that the political environment remains difficult, with many procedural tactics still available to Republicans intent on blocking his nominees.

Top priorities for the White House include the confirmation in December of Jeh Johnson as Homeland Security secretary, Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve, according to a White House official. Mr. Obama also hopes for quick confirmation of three nominees to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which was at the center of the Senate fight, the official said.

White House aides and allies said they have yet to finalize plans for how to push through another 186 executive nominees and 50 judicial nominees awaiting Senate confirmation. They said decisions about how to move forward rest with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The presidential nomination process was pushed into uncharted waters after the Senate changed its rules to require a simple majority, rather than 60 votes, to confirm most nominees. White House and Senate Democratic officials cautioned that breaking the personnel gridlock that has defined much of the Obama presidency could remain difficult, even with the change.

"We will move the folks who are stalled, but it's not within our power to rush them through," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson. "We will move them along in a timely fashion, but we didn't give ourselves the power to move things faster. At the end of the day, it still has to be a fair vote. The hope is that filibustering these folks is futile, and that people will do it less. …

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