McConnell demands assurances from Obama on recess appointments

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Saturday afternoon blocked more than 50 judicial and executive branch nominees, demanding assurances that President Obama not make recess appointments during Christmas break.

Republicans are wary of Obama appointing a director to the new agency tasked with implementing Wall Street reform during the congressional recess.

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Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee to the agency earlier this month because they do not like the way its set up. They argue it should be subject to more congressional oversight.

“We are ready and willing to move forward, by consent, with a package of nominations to positions in both the executive and judicial branches,” McConnell said. “Just as soon as I receive confirmation from the administration that it will respect practice and precedent on recess appointments, we can get these people confirmed.”

McConnell has agreed to allow some military appointments and Michael McFaul, the ambassador to Russia, through the Senate but he will not agree to the full slate Democrats have requested unless he is assured there will be no recess appointments.

Senate Democrats have urged Obama to use a recess appointment to install Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Obama said he would look at all options to appoint a director to the financial protection agency, which otherwise cannot regulate payday lenders, student loan companies and other non-bank entities.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said McConnell’s actions risked creating a backlog, undermining progress made on nominees over the past three months.

“I’m kind of reminded of my days of being a younger man when I would run a foot race,” Reid said. “I ran long races but unless I started fast, it was really hard to catch up. That’s my concern about these nominations. We’ve started so slowly, I’m not sure we can catch up. I hope we can.”