President Obama is increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of confirmation for his judicial and executive appointees, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Gibbs expressed the administration's discontent with what he deemed a deliberate commitment to obstructionism by Republicans in the Senate. But he added that he was not aware of any effort by the president's legislative staff to draft legislative language to dampen the use or effectiveness of the filibuster.
"We have put a number of people into government in the first year," Gibbs said, in a response to a question by the Huffington Post. "But at the same time we have seen a pacing in dealing with nominations, both for the executive branch and judicial nominations that, I think, by almost any estimation would be deemed slow."
As Gibbs briefed reporters, sources said that the White House will push to re-nominate seven of those judicial and political appointees who have been held up in the Senate, including Dawn Johnsen, the controversial nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel.
Two sources with knowledge of the situation told HuffPost that they expected the re-nominations to be announced soon. But administration officials emphasized that no decisions have been made as of yet. Senate Democratic aides, meanwhile, said they were in the dark about where those nominations stood. The president can not officially re-submit a nominee until the Senate reconvenes on January 20, unless he is pursuing a recess appointment.
In the daily briefing on Tuesday, Gibbs said he did not "know what decisions have been made about nominees that have, as a result of being -- having passed a year, need to be re-nominated."
According to sources, however, the names of those people whose nominations were held up during the past year and are likely to be re-nominated include:
Dawn Johnsen, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
Christopher Schroeder, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy
Mary Smith, Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division
Craig Becker, National Labor Relations Board
Louis Butler, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin
Edward Chen, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of California
David Teeples, Army brigadier general
The most high profile of these names is Johnsen who was first nominated a year ago to take over the same position that Bush administration lawyers occupied when they effectively constructed legal arguments to authorize the use of torture. Her criticism of those past OLC officials has troubled moderate Republicans and several conservative Democrats and, as a result, left her short of the 60 votes needed for confirmation.
The president, along with Democratic leadership in Congress, has been criticized by progressive activists for an apparent unwillingness to press for Johnsen's confirmation. As of several weeks ago, it was largely assumed that her nomination was dead.
A re-nomination, of course, would change that perception and already the administration seems to be striking a much more aggressive tone when it comes to condemning the delaying tactics deployed by Senate Republicans -- when it comes to nominees and actual legislation.
"I think the president's overriding frustration has been... it is not simply that you see tactics purely to delay, purely to watch the clock wind around and around, but they don't even appear to be philosophical," Gibbs said on Wednesday. "When something gets filibustered and we take 30 hours to debate it and then the ultimate vote is 88 to 10, was the filibuster predicated on anything else than watching the clock wind around?... I think the president, I think the American people are frustrated by the lack of not getting anything done just to hear someone talk."
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