Senate holds pro forma to save pending nominations

The Senate held a brief pro forma session on Friday to save dozens of President Obama’s pending nominations.

Earlier this week, the House and Senate both passed an adjournment agreement, but the Senate still had to hold a pro forma on Friday, so executive and judicial nominees pending on the executive calendar weren’t sent back to Obama’s desk.

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Under the current rules, if the Senate were out of session for more than 30 days, all pending nominations would be sent back to the White House.

There are dozens of nominees who have made their way through the committee process and are now waiting for an up-or-down confirmation vote from the full Senate. If the pro forma weren’t held Friday, they would have to start that process all over again.

Republicans have been less willing to advance nominations since Democrats used the “nuclear option” to unilaterally change Senate filibuster rules. With the rule change, some nominations now require a simple-majority to advance instead of the previously needed 60 votes.

“We used to pass ambassadors and all kinds of people en bloc like that. But we have this nuclear option that the majority chose, so it takes a little longer to do the whole process,” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said. “This is the procedure the majority set up.”

Before lawmakers left last week for the August recess, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) asked for unanimous consent to confirm 25 nominations to vacant ambassadorships, but Enzi objected, saying Democrats would have to live with the consequences of taking away the minority’s right to filibuster nominations.

“Our career Foreign Service Officers serve Democratic and Republican presidents and they should not — they must not — be treated as political pawns,” Menendez said. “The Senate standoff that has left so many career foreign service nominees in political and personal limbo is damaging our credibility, undermining our national security, and it must end now.”

When the senators return to work on Sept. 8, the first votes will be on the confirmation of four executive nominations.

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