Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama has withdrawn most of his “holds” on presidential nominees, including President Obama’s picks for key Justice Department posts.
Shelby’s office announced late last night that the senator would drop his “blanket hold” on more than 70 nominees pending on the Senate Executive Calendar. A hold is when a senator — often anonymously — lets it be known he would oppose a unanimous consent request to bring a particular bill or nomination to the Senate floor. Without unanimous consent, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would have to make a debatable motion to bring the matter to the floor, thus raising the possibility of a filibuster. Senate leaders usually do not even begin that process, recognizing it would be very time-consuming.
The DOJ nominees who were caught up in Shelby’s hold were:
- Mary L. Smith, to be Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division. She was reported out of committee last Thursday.
- Christopher Schroeder, to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy. He also was reported out of committee on Thursday.
- John Laub, to be director of the National Institute of Justice. He was reported out of committee on Dec. 3.
- Susan Carbon, to be director of the Office on Violence Against Women. She was reported out of committee on Dec. 3.
- Richard Hartunian, to be U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
- Andre Birotte Jr., to be U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
- Ron Machen, to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
The Alabama senator had held up the more than 70 nominees since Thursday over concerns he has about a tanker contract that could bring 1,500 jobs to Mobile, Ala., and over funds he is requesting to build an FBI counterterrorism center in his state. Northrop Grumman is vying to win the tanker contract, and if successful, would assemble the planes in Mobile.
A spokesman for Shelby said the Republican had “accomplished” his goal by employing the “blanket hold,” according to Politico.
“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 (TEDAC). With that accomplished, Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition until the new Request for Proposal is issued,” Shelby aide Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement, according to Politico.
Shelby still has holds on the nominations of Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force; Frank Kendall, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics; and Erin Conaton, undersecretary of the Air Force, Politico said.
Democrats and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had sharply criticized Shelby for the rare move to hold up all of Obama’s nominees who were waiting for votes in the full Senate. Last week, Gibbs said there likely wouldn’t be a “greater example of silliness throughout the entire year of 2010.”