What's a little group therapy among senators to help ease tensions and avoid a partisan showdown over the future of the U.S. Senate?
That's what will happen Monday evening when all 100 senators are scheduled to attend an historic meeting in the Old Senate Chamber to discuss differences over the use of the filibuster to block nominees to the president's Cabinet.
Unless senators can resolve their differences tonight, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) plans to move ahead with a key test vote Tuesday on the nomination of Richard Cordray to continue serving as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and six other nominees.
So who are they and why are Republicans seeking to block their nominations? Here's a summary of each person:
Richard Cordray: Position: Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. First nominated: July 17, 2011. Recess appointed: Jan. 4, 2012.
Cordray was tapped to lead the CFPB after losing his reelection bid as Ohio attorney general. Before that role, Cordray served as state treasurer, the treasurer of Franklin County, Ohio, and a one-term state representative. He once also served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Byron White. Republicans don't necessarily object to Cordray, they're opposed to the existence of his entire agency and are seeking changes to how it operates. Republicans filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the recess appointments of Cordray and two members of the National Labor Relations Board (see below). A federal appeals court ruled in January that the appointments made while the Senate was in recess were unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court plans to review the case in the fall.
Richard Griffin: Position: Member, National Labor Relations Board. First nominated: Dec. 14, 2011. Recess appointed: Jan. 4, 2012.
Griffin previously served as the top lawyer for the International Union of Operating Engineers and also on the board of directors for the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee. In the early 1980s, he also served as a counsel to NLRB board members. Republicans object to Griffin's recess appointment and have raised questions about his work for IUOE, including allegations that he embezzled union money and forced some workers to join the union.
Sharon Block: Position: Member, National Labor Relations Board. First nominated: Dec. 14, 2011. Recess appointed: Jan. 4, 2012.
Block previously served as a deputy assistant secretary at the Labor Department and as a senior labor and employment counsel on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. She was a senior attorney at the NLRB from 2003 to 2006 and used to work for the National Endowment for the Humanities and as an attorney at the Washington law firm Steptoe & Johnson. Republicans object to her recess appointment.
Mark Pearce: Position: Chairman and Member, National Labor Relations Board. First nominated: April 2010, confirmed by the Senate June 2010 and renominated in April to serve as a member and chairman.
Pearce was named NLRB chairman in Aug. 2011, having joined the board a year earlier. He is a former labor attorney from Buffalo, N.Y. and previously served as a regional attorney for NLRB in Western New York.
Fred Hochberg: Position: Chairman, Export-Import Bank of the United States. First nominated: Jan. 2009 and renominated in March for a new term.
Hochberg is a top Obama campaign donor and former acting administrator at the Small Business Administration. He previously served as dean of Milano, The New School for Management and Urban Policy in New York and as president and COO of the Lillian Vernon Corporation. Some Senate Republicans object to how the bank provides federal subsidies to private companies.
Thomas E. Perez: Position: Secretary of Labor. Nominated: March 18.
He currently runs the Justice Department's civil rights divison and previously served as Maryland labor secretary. Before that, Perez was the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council. Senate Republicans have painted Perez as a polarizing and radical figure and raised concerns about his tenure at DOJ.
Gina McCarthy: Position: Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency. Nominated: March 18.
McCarthy has run EPA in an acting capacity since former administrator Lisa Jackson stepped down. McCarthy previously served as assistant administrator, running the Office of Air and Radiation. Before moving to EPA, she was Connecticut's environmental protection commissioner. McCarthy has faced stiff opposition from GOP senators concerned with transparency issues at the agency, while Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has blocked the pick over disagreements with the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding a floodway project in his state.
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