Filibuster rules fight leaves nominees dangling

November 25, 2013
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Traditionally, before the Senate takes a long, 18-day vacation, both parties negotiate to approve a list of noncontroversial judicial and executive branch nominees. But not this time. Republicans, furious over the Democrats’ move to eliminate the filibuster on most nominations, were in no mood to play nice.

So the Senate slithered out of town Thursday for Thanksgiving — apparently they eat a lot and need time to digest so they won’t come back until Dec.9 — and left more than 70 nominees, all of whom had been approved by Senate committees, twisting in the wind.

Many of those nominees were up for very senior jobs, such as deputy secretary of state, and several were looking to be under secretaries at the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Energy and State.

The State Department took the biggest hit at the agencies, starting with deputy secretary nominee Heather Higgenbottom, undersecretary nominees Sarah Sewall for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Richard Stengel for Public Diplomacy and Rose Gottemoeller for Arms Control and International Security.

Several key assistant secretaries of state were also shut out, including Anne Patterson for Near Eastern Affairs. (Maybe the senators didn’t know that meant she was overseeing somewhat important countries like Iran, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia?) And there was no vote on the nomination of Tom Malinowski to be assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

In addition, the freeze affected some 15 ambassadors-in-waiting — including mega-bundlers Robert Sherman for Portugal, Tim Broas for the Netherlands, Pamela Hamamoto for the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, and Dwight Bush for Morocco.

Well, let’s see if the Christmas spirit affects the lawmakers.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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