In a closed door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, President Obama expressed his frustration with Republican slow-walking and filibustering of key nominees, and urged them to address the issue, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.
The exchange, which a senior White House official confirmed to TPM, comes as Senate Democratic leaders weigh plans to confront ongoing GOP obstruction of Obama nominees — including multiple high-profile filibusters just weeks after the parties agreed to Senate rules reforms intended to grease the confirmation process.
The White House official said Obama “made it clear that it was a priority — particularly with judges and asked for more help identifying nominees and getting them passed.”
Though some of his supporters complain the administration has been slow to name people to fill judicial vacancies, Republicans have blocked or slow-walked the confirmation many of the people he has nominated.
Just this month, Republicans once again filibustered Caitlin Halligan, whom Obama first designated to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals more than two years ago.
The story isn’t much better for nominees who do get confirmed. On Monday, the Senate confirmed Richard Taranto for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 484 days after he was nominated. He was confirmed 91-0. Friday marked one year since Obama nominated Patty Shwartz to serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; her nomination is still pending.
But the federal court logjam will be hard to clear without some kind of forcing mechanism. And the GOP’s threat to filibuster any and all nominees to direct the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could provide it. The current director, Richard Cordray, is serving on a recess appointment, which expires at the end of the year. And without a director, the CFPB will find its regulatory powers greatly diminished. If Democrats want to secure that piece of their Obama-era legacy, without acceding to GOP efforts to structurally weaken it, they’ll have to figure out a way to move the needle on Cordray’s nomination and perhaps nominations more broadly.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.