Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Thursday placed a blanket hold on
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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."
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
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.
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.