Graham’s threat aside, nominees could get Senate votes

November 11, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: (L-R) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) hold a news conference about Benghazi at the U.S. Capitol October 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. Graham said he would put a hold on all Obama Administration nominations pending in the Senate until Congress is given access to survivors of the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, center, doubled down on his threat to block nominees. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Think that Sen. Lindsey Graham’s continued threat to hold up all of the White House’s nominees means the Senate won’t be voting on any of President Obama’s picks?

It might not be so simple.

Not that getting through the Senate has ever been a cakewalk for any of the White House’s job candidates, but there are  folks who still could see floor votes despite Graham’s warning that he would block all nominees until the White House makes available for congressional testimony the witnesses who survived the deadly attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

First of all, the South Carolina Republican’s threat apparently only applies to new nominees teed up for Senate action (or, in legislative parlance, “placed on the Executive Calendar”).  There were plenty of otherwise non-controversial names on that list as of Oct. 28, when Graham first issued the threat.

Since that date, the Senate approved nominees, including Richard Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board and Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly to the Federal Communications Commission.  And Graham said Sunday during an appearance on CNN that he had also released his hold on two additional ambassador nominations, which means they could get floor votes, too.

Getting nominations through has been difficult of late, Graham’s bluster notwithstanding — Senate Democrats already figured that the toxic partisan atmosphere meant that many of Obama’s picks already needed 60 votes to win approval.

If he remains unsatisfied on the Benghazi probe, Graham could very well hold up some high-profile nominations, including Jeh Johnson to head the Department of Homeland Security and Janet Yellen to be the new Fed chief.

But even if he doesn’t get his witnesses, it looks like there’s still some wiggle room.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Al Kamen · November 11, 2013