Harry Reid’s Confirmation Gambit

So Ted Cruz and Mike Lee effectively held up Senate approval of the Cromnibus bill by raising pseudo-constitutional objections to funding for the Department of Homeland Security. And then Harry Reid, in the waning days of his majority leadership, exploited the extra time to suddenly push for 24 confirmation votes for Obama nominees. WaPo’s Sean Sullivan explains Reid’s plan:

Beginning Monday, Reid plans to set in motion votes for Vivek Murthy to serve as surgeon general, Daniel Santos to take a seat on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and Frank Rose to serve as an assistant secretary of state.

Then, Reid will set up votes for Antony Blinken to serve as a deputy secretary of state and Sarah Saldaña to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

It is unclear whether Republicans will allow Reid to accelerate the process. The nominees face serious GOP resistance, and Republican senators are still angry about Reid’s decision to change Senate rules on confirming nominees. McConnell’s office estimates that the Senate will wrap up its business Tuesday or Wednesday.

Sounds to me like some confirmations will slip through as part of a deal that may exclude the big names:

Among the final batch of nominees Reid is trying to shepherd through this week, Murthy, Saldaña and Blinken have faced strong GOP opposition.

McCain and other Republicans plan to vote against Blinken because he supported and helped implement Obama’s drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Saldaña, a Dallas-based U.S. attorney, would be the first Latina to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Initially seen as a noncontroversial pick, she had the support of Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, until she said she believed that Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration were legal. Other Republicans plan to vote against her for making those comments.

GOP senators also have concerns about Murthy’s past roles as an advocate for Obama’s health-care law and for gun control. During his confirmation hearing in February, Murthy was questioned about his support for stricter gun control. Republicans seized on comments on his personal Twitter account, where he said that he was “tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns” and that guns “are a health care issue.”

So two nominees would be blocked for supporting their own president’s policies, while the other would go down for stating a public health truism that happens to annoy the gun lobby.

But obviously, Reid should go for anything he can get, and Republicans should add this to their list of grievances to Cruz and his ilk.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.