Federal Eye: Eye Opener: Ahead of votes, Obama blasts Senate confirmation process

Happy Thursday! The Senate votes today on the nominations of M. Patricia Smith to serve as the Labor Department’s top lawyer and Martha N. Johnson to lead the General Services Administration. Other confirmation votes could occur on Thursday or next week, Senate aides said.

The votes come a day after President Obama criticized a legislative tactic he once practiced himself, saying that Republicans were delaying confirmation votes on several of his nominees for reasons unrelated to their qualifications.

“We’ve got a huge backlog of folks who are unanimously viewed as well qualified, nobody has a specific objection to them, but end up having a hold on them because of some completely unrelated piece of business,” Obama said at a question and answer session during the Senate Democratic Conference at the Newseum in Washington.

Senate rules allow members to place a hold on nominees — to block their consideration by the chamber — at any time for any reason. Such holds are often placed anonymously, making it exceedingly difficult for those outside the Senate to track their use. But news reports indicate that Obama, as a senator from Illinois, placed holds on at least three Bush administration nominees amid policy disagreements or concerns about their qualifications.

On Wednesday the president singled out Johnson for attention. She has waited since June for a full Senate vote.

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