The Hill: Sen. Alexander calls on Reid, McConnell to reach judicial nominations deal

Posted on March 13, 2012

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday morning called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to settle a new dispute over how to allow votes for 17 U.S. district judges, and said he was disappointed that Reid decided to file for cloture on these judges Monday.

“I’m here today simply as one senator, to say respectfully to the majority leader, I hope he will reconsider and not do that,” Alexander said on the Senate floor.

“Rather than escalating this into a high principle, a big disagreement … they [should] retire to one of their offices, and they sit down quietly, and they take a time out, and they work this out,” he added. “That’s the way it’s always been done in the United States Senate.”

Reid on Monday filed for cloture, citing Republican obstructionism on these nominations. But Alexander said those judges fell victim to obstruction and delay only after President Obama made several controversial “recess” appointments while the Senate was not in recess, to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Alexander said before that decision, it was established by Reid himself that recess appointments cannot be made during pro-forma sessions, and called this the “Reid Rule.”

“The president decided to violate the Reid rule, which says that you don’t … make recess appointments during three-day pro forma sessions,” Alexander said. “That was invented by majority leader of the United States Senate, Sen. Reid.

“President Bush didn’t like it, but he respected it. But President Obama violated it, and blew up the year-end clearing of a number of nominees, including district judges.”

Alexander said that without those recess appointments, 11 of the 17 federal judges would likely have been confirmed in a “year-end clearing” process. He said the remaining six judges have only been nominated in the last 30 days or so, which means their confirmations have not yet been significantly delayed.