Senate Obstructionists Block Obama Nominees for Financial Protection Agency, DC Circuit Court

Categories: Judiciary, News

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.