Senate confirms Labor, EPA nominees: How Harkin and Grassley voted

The U.S. Senate confirmed two cabinet nominees today who had waited since March for an up or down vote in the chamber. The nominations moved forward thanks to a deal negotiated earlier this week. Six Republicans joined the whole Democratic caucus to pass a cloture motion ending debate on the nomination of Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor by 60 votes to 40 (roll call). Shortly thereafter, senators confirmed Perez on a straight party-line vote of 54 to 46. Mike Memoli reported that the “Senate Historian can’t find another example” of a cabinet nominee being confirmed on a strict party-line vote. Iowa’s Democratic Senator Tom Harkin voted for cloture and confirmation; Republican Chuck Grassley voted against Perez both times. He did not support the deal designed to reduce filibusters on executive branch nominations.

Later today, senators passed a cloture motion ending debate on Gina McCarthy’s nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency by a more comfortable 69 to 31 margin. McCarthy was then confirmed by 59 votes to 40. Again, Harkin supported McCarthy, while Grassley voted against both cloture and her confirmation.

I will update this post if I see any comment from Iowa’s senators on the new cabinet members.

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Harkin and Grassley on the latest Senate confirmations and filibuster deal

Democrats in the U.S. Senate came closer than ever this week to stopping Republicans from forcing a supermajority vote on executive branch nominees. An informal deal deterred Democrats from changing Senate rules by simple majority vote and cleared the path for a handful of President Barack Obama’s nominees to go forward. However, more struggles over confirmations seem likely in the future.

Iowa’s Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley could hardly be further apart on the process by which the Senate gives its “advice and consent.”  

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Obama cabinet update: Napolitano out, two nominees still in limbo

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will leave President Barack Obama’s cabinet to become president of the University of California system, the administration announced Friday. Nanette Asimov wrote a good account of the challenges she’ll face in her new position. Napolitano was rumored to have wanted Attorney General Eric Holder’s job during Obama’s second term. The White House hasn’t announced her replacement yet, but Juliet Eilperin and Aaron Blake speculated about sixteen possible candidates. Half the names on that wide-raging list were unfamiliar to me. I hope Obama doesn’t tap either former Senator Joe Lieberman or former Representative Jane Harman.

Meanwhile, two highly qualified people nominated for cabinet positions in March have yet to receive up or down votes in the full Senate. Fox News Latino reported on July 12 that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will try to get a confirmation vote on Thomas Perez for secretary of labor this week. Perez faces strong opposition among Senate Republicans. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda is lobbying hard for his confirmation; that group’s leader and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have criticized the president “for not appointing more Hispanics to his administration.”

I haven’t seen any details about a confirmation vote for Gina McCarthy, Obama’s nominee as chief administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. I’ve been pessimistic about her chances, but Darren Goode reported for Politico earlier this month that McCarthy “seems likely” to win confirmation, thanks to a few Republicans who may not like the president’s environmental agenda, but “have traditionally opposed filibustering presidential nominees.” His word in God’s ear, as the Yiddish proverb goes. Goode’s piece also noted that McCarthy has faced “a record delay for a nominee to head EPA” and that Bob Perciasepe has now served as acting EPA administrator for an unprecedented amount of time in the EPA’s 40-year history. The Senate has never rejected a president’s choice for that cabinet position.

Any comments on the Obama administration are welcome in this thread.

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Obama cabinet update: several confirmed but two nominees in trouble

It’s been a while since Bleeding Heartland covered the status of President Barack Obama’s cabinet nominees. Within the last week, senators have confirmed three nominees with little controversy. However, Republicans appear determined to block two highly-qualified appointees: Thomas Perez and Gina McCarthy.

Details on recent cabinet confirmation votes are after the jump, along with background on the latest to be confirmed, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  

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Mid-week open thread, with latest Obama cabinet news

As expected, President Barack Obama nominated Thomas Perez this week to run the U.S. Department of Labor. Media Matters posted “myths and facts” about the labor nominee here. Adam Serwer summarized Perez’s record and commented that Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is “chief” among the nominee’s “political enemies.” Other Senate Republicans who have criticized Perez include David Vitter of Louisiana and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. John Gramlich commented in Roll Call,

Perez succeeded in blocking Republican-backed voting laws in South Carolina and Texas that his division deemed racially discriminatory. He pressed racial profiling charges against Joe Arpaio, the Republican sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who is among the most divisive figures in the national immigration debate. His handling of a legal agreement with the city of St. Paul, Minn., in a lending discrimination case has drawn condemnation from Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who has called it a “quid pro quo” and a “shady deal.”

Senate criticism of Perez so far has come primarily from Grassley and the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department and is seen as one of the more-partisan panels in the chamber. Perez’s nomination to the Labor Department will not come before the Judiciary Committee, however. It will come before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is the top Republican.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri has put a procedural hold on Gina McCarthy’s nomination as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Spring is just around the corner, so Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return to Bleeding Heartland soon. Meanwhile, enjoy some gorgeous wildflower photos from southern California at La Vida Locavore.

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Mid-week open thread: New pope and latest Obama cabinet news

White smoke rose from the Vatican today after the cardinals selected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina to be the next pope. He will be known as Pope Francis I. CORRECTION: He will be known as Pope Francis. According to John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter, Bergoglio was the “runner-up” to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during the last papal conclave in 2005. More excerpts from Allen’s profile of the new pope are after the jump. Bergoglio was not considered a leading contender; one Irish betting site had the odds on his becoming pope at 25/1. On the other hand, he was one of the leading Latino contenders. Pope Francis I will be the first non-European pontiff. Last month Senator Tom Harkin said it would be a “great move in the right direction” for the cardinals to select a Latino pope. UPDATE: Added comments from Iowa bishops and Democratic State Representative Bruce Bearinger’s speech about the new pope on the Iowa House floor today.

SECOND UPDATE: Added Representative Bruce Braley’s comments on the new pope.

President Barack Obama has not announced any new cabinet appointments in the last few days, but Thomas Perez, currently head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is rumored to be the next secretary of labor. He would face strong opposition from Senate Republicans, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley.

Susan Rice, who withdrew her nomination for secretary of state late last year, may become the president’s next national security adviser.

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge wrote to the president this week, expressing concern that none of Obama’s new cabinet appointees are African American.

Attorney General Eric Holder, appointed in Obama’s first term, remains the Obama administration’s only black Cabinet-level appointee. According to a Politics365 analysis released last week, that’s the fewest by any president over the last 38 years.

This is an open thread.

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