executive nominations

AG Hearing: Grassley's Contempt for His Colleagues and for America

Grassley rushed the Sessions AG hearing, said falsely that Chuck Schumer supported Sessions, and surprisingly disrespected his congressional colleagues off the committee.

PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on Jeff Sessions and the Emerging Trump Resistance

Following last week's hearing on Jeff Sessions' nomination to serve as attorney general, PFAW staff joined members and supporters on a call about the Sessions battle and what it means for other Trump nominees and the emerging resistance to Trump's extreme agenda.

Blistering Coretta Scott King Letter Opposing Jeff Sessions’ Judicial Nomination Kept Secret For 30 Years

When Jeff Sessions was nominated to a federal judgeship in 1986, the late civil rights activist Coretta Scott King was among those who opposed his confirmation. King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., sent senators a nine-page statement opposing Sessions’ confirmation as a federal judge.  Sen. Strom Thurmond, who chaired the Judiciary Committee at the time, kept the letter out of the public record. And, as the Washington Post has noted, “The current Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), has not previously released the letter, which committee rules grant him the sole authority to reveal.”

Now that the statement and a cover letter from Coretta Scott King has been published by the Washington Post, it is easy to see why Republicans kept it out of the public eye for so long.

In the short cover letter to her longer statement, King wrote:

Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.

In the statement, King explained that the organization whose activists were targeted for prosecution by Sessions was created as an outgrowth of voting rights efforts in Selma and neighboring Perry County in the 1960s. Sessions continues to defend that effort; as PFAW’s Marge Baker noted in a statement on the first day of Sessions’ confirmation hearing, Sessions “brushed off the allegations of racism and Republicans and Democrats alike determined were credible in 1986, and he doubled down on his unsuccessful prosecution of voting rights activists.”

Coretta Scott King noted that while the Voting Rights Act led to real progress, Blacks still fell “far short of having equal participation in the electoral process.” She continued:

It has been a long up-hill struggle to keep alive the vital legislation that protects the most fundamental right to vote. A person who has exhibited so much hostility to the enforcement of those laws, and thus, to the exercise of those rights by Black people should not be elevated to the federal bench.

The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.

Among the witnesses testifying this week against Sessions’ confirmation as U.S. attorney general was one of MLK’s closest colleagues, Rep. John Lewis, who suffered a skull fracture on “Bloody Sunday” when voting rights marchers were violently attacked in Selma, Alabama. 


Will Sessions Follow the Long Tradition of Recusal?

Both ethics and history make clear that Sessions should recuse himself from his own confirmation vote.

Opposition to Sessions Nomination for Attorney General

People For the American Way sent this letter to Senate and Judiciary Committee leaders opposing the nomination of Senator Jefferson Sessions to become Attorney General of the United States.

PFAW Applauds Confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General

Delay Shows How Far GOP Will Go in Playing Politics Rather than Governing

WASHINGTON – Today, following a historically long wait for a Senate floor vote, Loretta Lynch was confirmed as the next U.S. Attorney General, becoming the first African American woman to hold that position.

People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“We are thrilled that Loretta Lynch, an eminently qualified and historic nominee, will now take her place in serving the country as the next attorney general. Ms. Lynch has been a leader in standing up against hate crimes, fighting public corruption, and defending civil rights.

“That Senate Republicans blocked a vote on her nomination for such an outrageous length of time and for no legitimate cause makes clear how far they are willing to go in putting politics above their responsibility to the American people.

“This absurd delay had nothing to do with her qualifications. At Ms. Lynch’s hearing, not even the Republicans’ own witnesses opposed her confirmation. The delay was simply about Senate Republicans throwing a wrench into the gears of our government in a misguided and reckless effort to pander to their far-right base. In the process, they gained widespread scorn for exposing their willingness to ignore the best interests of the country.” 


PFAW Statement on Announcement of Loretta Lynch Vote

WASHINGTON – Following a wait for a Senate floor vote more than twice as long as those of the past seven attorneys general combined, it appears that Loretta Lynch will finally receive a vote in the Senate to confirm her as the next U.S. Attorney General. Ms. Lynch would be the first African American woman to hold that position.

People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“We congratulate Loretta Lynch on the announcement of her well-deserved, and long overdue, confirmation vote. Despite being eminently qualified, Ms. Lynch has waited for a vote on the Senate floor more than twice as long as the past seven attorneys general combined.

“We look forward to a prompt vote and to Ms. Lynch becoming the next attorney general of the United States.”


95 Senate Roll-Call Votes While Lynch Waits for Hers

McConnell needs to drop his ridiculous demand that the Senate approve an unrelated bill before he allows a confirmation vote for attorney general.

Not Even GOP's Own Witnesses Oppose Loretta Lynch

Not even the hearing witnesses invited by Judiciary Committee Republicans oppose Loretta Lynch as attorney general.

Lame Duck Session Confirmations: PFAW Member Telebriefing

As Congress returns for the lame duck session after the midterm elections, People For the American Way hosted a member telebriefing on Monday on the critical work that needs to be completed this session to fill court vacancies. The call was kicked off by PFAW Director of Communications Drew Courtney who underscored the significant number of judicial and executive nominations the Senate faces, including President Obama’s new Attorney General nominee, Loretta Lynch.

PFAW members were joined on the call by Josh Hsu, Senior Counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who shared Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy’s commitment to moving forward on nominees through the lame duck session. He pointed out that much of the GOP obstruction of judicial nominees occurs under the public radar, but it has an enormous impact.  If the judicial nominees who can be confirmed by year’s end are stalled instead, that will create a substantial and needless backlog in the next Congress that will delay judicial nominees down the line. 

Hsu also gave his thoughts on how Republican control of the Senate may impact judicial nominations. Hsu pointed out that the three most recent two-term presidents all faced opposition Congresses in the final two years of their presidencies, but all continued to move forward on many nominations.

PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker and Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon emphasized the importance of local activists keeping up the momentum around judicial nominations, both during the lame duck and over the next two years. Gordon called on PFAW activists to continue contacting their senators and writing to their local papers. When senators hear from constituents on an issue or see articles written in their local newspaper, Gordon said, they pay attention. Grassroots activism is critical to making sure senators get the message on the importance of the courts, and of confirming nominees before the end of the year.

You can listen to the full audio of the telebriefing here:


Welcome Back, Senate, It's Time to Get to Work

There is more than enough time during the lame duck to confirm President Obama's nominees.

Senators Should Watch This Video from the Federal Judiciary

Senators who attack nominees for representing criminals in court could use this lesson from America's federal judges.

Contempt for the Constitution Shows in Opposition to Adegbile

Today's shameful demagoguery against Debo Adegbile slights the constitutional protections that keep us free.

PFAW Memo: GOP Exceeds Expectations…on Executive Branch Obstruction

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
Date: November 18, 2013
Re: GOP Exceeds Expectations…on Executive Branch Obstruction

Earlier this year, People For the American Way released an analysis showing the unprecedented level of obstruction faced by President Obama’s nominees to the executive branch. At that time, 16 of the President’s nominees to the executive branch of government had faced filibusters from Republican senators and were the subject of cloture votes after Republicans refused to allow an up-or-down vote on their nominations. That number was on pace to reach 28 nominees by the end of President Obama’s second term.

Since then, things have only gotten worse.

In the last four months, eleven additional executive branch nominees have faced filibusters from Republicans intent on blocking their nominations. These include Fred P. Hochberg (Export-Import Bank President), Regina McCarthy (Environmental Protection Agency Administrator), Thomas Perez (Secretary of Labor), Kent Yoshiho Hirozawa (National Labor Relations Board member), Nancy Jean Schiffer (National Labor Relations Board member), Mark Gaston Pearce (National Labor Relations Board Chairman), Byron Todd Jones (Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), Richard F. Griffin (National Labor Relations Board General Counsel), Alan F. Estevez (Assistant Secretary of Defense Logistics and Materiel Readiness), Katherine Archuleta (Director of the Office of Personnel Management), and Congressman Melvin L. Watt (Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency). Notably, the filibuster of Congressman Watt represented the first filibuster of a sitting member of Congress for an executive branch appointment since before the Civil War.

Importantly, the rate of obstruction has increased considerably, and Republicans are now on pace to filibuster a full 45 nominees before the end of the Obama administration in January 2017.

Not only do these filibusters hinder the work of a wide range of agencies and departments, they are also part of a larger Republican agenda to nullify existing laws through obstruction. Many of President Obama’s executive branch nominees have faced filibusters not because Senate Republicans objected to their personal qualifications, but because they do not wish to allow the agencies and departments to which they have been nominated to do their work.

This nullification strategy is part of the same wrong-headed philosophy that forced the government to shut down last month, and which is currently preventing three impressively qualified nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals from receiving confirmation votes.

The ultimate victims of Republican obstruction aren’t the Senate’s Democratic leadership or even President Obama, but the individual Americans who depend on a government that operates effectively and addresses the needs of real people.

Correction: This post was updated to include the filibusters of Fred Hochberg, Regina McCarthy, and Thomas Perez.



PFAW Applauds Perez Confirmation

WASHINGTON – People For the American Way today applauded the Senate confirmation of Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor.  Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, released the following statement:

“Anyone who cares about the fair treatment of workers or civil rights should be thrilled by the confirmation of Tom Perez.  During his time in the Justice Department, Perez’s commitment to protecting the rights of Americans – whether they are women, people of color, LGBT people, or people with disabilities – has been extraordinary.  He has spent his career fighting for the rights of all Americans and now he will be able to take that passion and commitment to the Department of Labor. 

“Even though today’s vote is an important step forward, we must continue to confront the partisan gridlock in the Senate that is hurting the American people. We must ensure that the President’s judicial nominees, like his executive nominees, also receive up and down votes. The American people understand that when senators decide they’d rather play politics than do their jobs, it harms not only Congress but all of our country.”


PFAW Memo: GOP Obstruction of Executive Branch Nominees

From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
To: Interested Parties
Re: GOP Obstruction of Executive Branch Nominees
Date: July 10, 2013

Despite the fact that Democrats hold a significant majority in the Senate, Republican senators are continuing to block President Obama’s Executive Branch nominees at a rate never before seen, according to a review of records by People For the American Way.

From 1949 (when Senate rules were changed to provide for cloture on nominations) through 2008, cloture votes were forced on only 20 executive branch nominations. However, in just the first four and a half years of the Obama administration, there have already been 16 such cloture votes, on the nominations of: Cass Sunstein (OMB), Robert Groves (Census), Harold Koh (State Department), Chris Hill (Ambassador to Iraq), David Hayes (Interior), Ben Bernanke (Federal Reserve), M. Patricia Smith (Labor Department), Martha Johnson (GSA), Craig Becker (NLRB), Lael Brainard (Treasury Department), James Cole (DOJ), Richard Cordray (CFPB), Norman Eisen (Ambassador to Czech Republic), Mari Aponte (Ambassador to El Salvador), Chuck Hagel (DOD), and John Brennan (CIA).

That’s an increase of more than 1,000% in the rate of forced cloture votes on nominations – 20 nominations on which cloture votes were forced in sixty years compared to 16 in just four and a half.  Republicans are on pace to force 28 cloture votes by the end of the Obama administration – more than under all previous presidents combined.

An examination of President George W. Bush’s term reveals that the Senate subjected only seven executive nominations to cloture votes in the entire eight years of his presidency—compared to 16 in just the first four and a half of the Obama administration.

Yet the full extent of the problem is even greater than what these numbers tell, because not all cloture petitions lead to formal cloture votes. So the total number of cloture petitions filed is important, and it also reveals a dramatic increase in the magnitude of obstruction.  Between 1949 and 2008, there were 32 executive nominations on which cloture was filed. There have been 25 filed so far under President Obama.

Indeed, during all eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, there were only 15 executive branch nominees on which cloture petitions were filed compared to 25 in just the first four and a half years of the Obama administration.  At the current rate, President Obama can expect 44 of his executive nominees to face cloture petitions – more than under all previous presidents combined.

Moreover, the number of cloture votes and petitions may well go much higher than that—there are currently 15 executive branch nominations on the Senate’s calendar.  All of these nominees have been waiting over three months for a vote from the Senate. Three were first nominated in 2011, meaning they have been waiting more than a year and a half, one almost two years, for a confirmation vote.

Senate Republicans are currently blocking nominees to a number of critical federal offices, including Tom Perez, nominated to be Secretary of Labor; Gina McCarthy, nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency; Richard Cordray, picked to be the first chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and five members of the National Labor Relations Board. It is no coincidence that these nominees have all been picked to head government offices that Republicans view with suspicion. Unable to eliminate these offices through democratic means, Senate Republicans are trying to cripple them through procedural obstruction.

This sort of obstruction is literally unprecedented for either party and must be stopped. It prevents executive branch departments from serving critical public needs, and it represents, essentially, an effort to overturn the results of the last election.


Recess Appointments Ruling Shows Consequences of GOP Obstructionism

There would be no litigation on recess appointments but for Republicans' refusal to allow the Senate to vote on President Obama's nominees.

PFAW Applauds President for Appointing Cordray; Recess Appointment a Necessary and Proper Response to GOP Obstruction

In a move to ensure the functioning of an important consumer protection agency in the face of escalating GOP obstructionism, the White House announced that President Obama will install Richard Cordray as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a recess appointment today.

Marge Baker of People For the American Way issued the following statement:

PFAW: Senate GOP Chooses Big Banks Over Consumers, Blocks Cordray Nomination

The Senate GOP today blocked a vote on the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious