Senate Obstructionists Block Obama Nominees for Financial Protection Agency, DC Circuit Court
December 9, 2011 - Posted by Ron Bigler
The U.S. Senate this week failed to move forward on votes to confirm two high-profile Obama administration appointees. The nominations of both Caitlin Halligan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and Richard Cordray to be the first director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican-led filibusters and allow for up-or-down confirmation votes.
Following the December 8 vote on Corday, President Obama said Republican opposition "makes absolutely no sense" and pledged that his administration is "… not going to allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected by unscrupulous financial operators." Obama also left open the possibility of a recess appointment but added that "[m]y hope and expectation is that the Republicans who blocked this nomination come to their senses."
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and coalition partners who supported the creation of the CFPB during the fight over financial reform in 2010 saw the vote on Cordray as a win for financial interests over ordinary Americans who have borne the brunt of the economic pain caused by unregulated banks and lenders.
“By blocking Cordray’s confirmation, the Senate minority has shown that it’s more interested in neutering consumer protections than in confirming a highly qualified nominee with broad bipartisan support from attorneys general, mayors, and businesses,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference. “These senators continue to protect the well-heeled interests that have fleeced Americans, rather than fulfilling their obligation to ensure the government operates efficiently and effectively to protect consumers.”
While based on past confirmation fights, Republican opposition was expected, The Leadership Conference and other advocates are saying that these latest votes show that the obstruction of President Obama’s nominees is reaching new levels.
"This vote [on Halligan] marks a new low in judicial obstruction and sets a disturbing new precedent that will make it nearly impossible for either party to confirm qualified nominees to the federal judiciary," said Nancy Zirkin, following the December 6 vote that blocked her confirmation. Calling Halligan "an exceptionally well-qualified, moderate, and noncontroversial nominee," Zirkin added that there is "no legitimate reason for denying her an up-or-down confirmation vote or to vote against her confirmation."
The inability to get qualified judges through the Senate has been a longstanding challenge facing the Obama administration. Advocates view the opposition to Obama’s judges as mostly political, given that even moderate and widely-supported judicial nominees are being blocked or held up by Republicans in the Senate.
Ensuring that all Americans have fair and equal access to the justice system, which includes the existence of fully functioning courts, is central to the work of The Leadership Conference and its coalition partners.