Sen. Shelby puts hold on all Obama nominees

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Thursday placed a blanket hold on all of President Barack Obama's nominees before the Senate, according to the office of Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Shelby's holds mean that the Senate cannot vote on a nominee unless the hold is broken using a cloture vote that requires 60 senators or if the senator lifts the hold.

A spokeswoman for Reid's (D-Nev.) office said that regardless of his concern, Shelby should not put a hold on more than 70 nominees over a parochial issue.

But Shelby's spokesman only said that the holds have been placed on "several pending nominees."

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Shelby applied the holds because of a dispute over a contract to build Air Force refueling tankers. The original deal was awarded to Northrop Grumman, which would have constructed the planes in Mobile, Ala.

But Boeing protested the award to the Government Accountability Office, which negated the deal in a report that faulted the Pentagon's selection process.

The Pentagon then reopened the competition, but Northrop has argued that it has given Boeing an unfair advantage in that process by disclosing price information to Boeing. It has threatened to pull out of the competition, and has been conducting a lobbying and public-relations campaign criticizing the competition.

Though holds on nominees are commonly used to protest unrelated issues, blanket holds occur less frequently and affect a wider swath of nominees before the Senate.

The Defense Department "must recognize" that the tanker deal "needs to be significantly and substantively changed," Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement.

Shelby is also not happy with the Obama administration's decision to hold back funding for an FBI facility in Alabama dedicated to research on explosives used by terrorists.

"If this administration were as worried about hunting down terrorists as it is about the confirmation of low-level political nominations, America would be a safer place," Graffeo said.

Obama decried such use of holds at his question-and-answer session with Senate Democrats this week.

The president said that holding nominees because of unrelated issues is disruptive and that holds should only be applied if a senator has a specific concern with an appointee.