Senate

Senate Republicans confirm Trump judicial nominee, overruling home-state Democrat

For years, senators have been able to effectively block judicial nominees from their home states through what’s known as the “blue slip” process. But on Thursday — amid Republican frustration over many of President Trump’s nominees being blocked — Senate Republicans decided to override one such objection from a Democratic senator and confirm the nominee anyway. Milwaukee attorney Michael Brennan was confirmed to fill an opening on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin had stalled Brennan’s nomination. The seat has been open for more than eight years, the longest for the nation’s appellate courts. Until this year, it had been nearly three decades since the Senate confirmed a judge without two positive blue slips. Brennan’s confirmation marked the second time it has happened this year. The maneuver comes as Senate Republicans are racing to confirm as many federal judges as they can before November’s midterm elections when control of the Senate could flip to Democrats. The Senate gives lawmakers a chance to weigh in on a judicial nominee from their home state by submitting a blue-colored form called the “blue slip.” A positive blue slip signals the Senate to move forward with the nomination process. A negative blue slip, or withholding it altogether, signals a senator’s objection and almost always stalls the nomination. The move to go ahead with a hearing for Brennan and a vote on the floor had Democrats complaining that Republicans were eroding one of the few remaining customs in the Senate that forced consultation on judicial nominations. They also noted that Republicans used the blue slip to block one of President Barack Obama’s nominees for the very same judgeship. “I’d admonish my friends on the other side of the aisle, this is a very dangerous road you’re treading,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “As everyone knows, the winds of political change blow swiftly in America. The minority one day is the majority the next.” But Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Democrats’ complaints were based on an incorrect understanding of the blue slip’s history. “The blue slip courtesy is just that — a courtesy,” Grassley said. He said past chairmen of the committee had rarely used negative or unreturned blue slips as unilateral vetoes. The most recent exception was Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was chairman during the first six years of Obama’s presidency. “That was his prerogative,” Grassley said. Still, the blue slip has been in use for more than a century and only a handful of judges have won confirmation during that time without two blue slips. Grassley said that under his tenure, the blue slip will be used to ensure the president consults with home-state senators, but not as a veto for appellate court nominees. He said he was satisfied in Brennan’s case that the White House consulted with both of Wisconsin’s senators before the president nominated him. Republicans have made it a priority to confirm the president’s nominees, particularly those who will serve on federal appeals courts. It’s a top issue with social conservatives leading into this year’s midterm elections. With Democrats slow-walking many of Trump’s nominees, McConnell said last October that the blue slip process should not be used to “blackball” nominees. “We’re going to confirm these judges. I don’t care what tactics they employ,” McConnell recently told Fox News’s Martha MacCallum.

Sen. Tom Cotton: Gina Haspel has spent her life defending our country. She’s an excellent choice for CIA

President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, is set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. As a strong supporter of her nomination, I expect she will do very well. Despite her opponents’ attempts to paint her as an ideological zealot, Haspel is a consummate professional whose record of accomplishment, bipartisan support, and clear love of country make her an excellent choice to lead our nation’s top intelligence agency. Unlike many nominees in recent years, Haspel isn’t the representative of a political faction. She’s a career intelligence officer with over 30 years of experience. Haspel joined the CIA in 1985, working as a case officer for several years in both Africa and Europe. Over time, she rose up the ranks, serving as deputy director of the National Clandestine Service and chief of staff for the director of operations. In addition, Haspel served as chief of station – that is, the agent responsible for overseeing all of the CIA’s work in a foreign country – four times. If confirmed, she would be the first CIA director in decades who has spent her entire career at the agency – as well as the first woman to lead the agency. Having served under six different presidents from both parties, Haspel is far from an ideologue. She’s an institutionalist who has put in so many years of work that she commands respect throughout the rank and file at the CIA. Haspel’s opponents have tried to use a small sliver of her career against her by arguing, essentially, that she was just too tough on Al Qaeda for this country to bear. But I’d argue that her willingness to serve in what was a highly stressful post only enhances the case for her confirmation. In the early 2000s, as the fight against Islamist terrorism heated up, Haspel asked to be reassigned to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, where her first day on the job was Sept. 11, 2001. It’s easy to forget that we lost 3,000 Americans that day in the worst attacks on American soil since Pearl Harbor – and that this was an especially trying time for all those working on national security. As former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently said: “If you were not in a position of authority on 9/11, you have no idea the pressures we faced to make sure that this country wasn’t attacked again.” And yet Haspel volunteered for the mission, later earning the George H.W. Bush Award, granted for excellence in counterterrorism; the Intelligence Medal of Merit; and the Presidential Rank Award, the most prestigious distinction in all of federal civil service. It’s true, as her critics charge, that Haspel was involved in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but once again, their potshots miss the mark. The president approved this program, Congress was fully briefed on it, and it included multiple layers of legal review.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is spot on here.  Gina is eminently qualified for the job and hope the Senate will confirm her soon.  For those of you who may not know, Sen. Cotton is a former solider/warrior who enlisted and then later became an officer, rising to the rank of Captain.  He was an “airborne Ranger” who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Bronze Star, among other medals.  So, the man isn’t some political hack.  He’s a warrior who recognizes a patriot like Gina, when he sees her.  To read the rest of Sen. Cotton’s op/ed, click on the text above.     🙂

Senate Confirms Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state in a bipartisan 57-42 vote. In a departure from what has historically been a rubber stamp vote, the majority of Democrats voted against Pompeo. Only a half a dozen Democrats voted to confirm Pompeo, primarily from red states that overwhelmingly went for Trump in 2018 and who are facing tough reelection fights. Those Democrats included: Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Doug Jones (AL), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (WV), and Claire McCaskill (MO), and Bill Nelson (FL). A number of senior Democratic leaders had come out against Pompeo, threatening his confirmation early on. With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) initially in opposition and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) recovering from brain cancer treatment, Republicans needed at least one Democratic vote. However, Paul reversed his opposition, after having several conversations with President Trump and Pompeo, saying his concerns over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were assuaged. After the vote, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate majority whip, blasted Democrats who voted against Pompeo and for delaying the confirmation of a number of Trump appointees. “The man has what it takes for the job. That’s why the no votes from our Democratic colleagues rang hollow,” he said after the vote. He said Democrats were attempting to “lash out at President Trump,” which he called “disappointing” and a “sad break from tradition.” “It’s a sorry continuation of the hyper-partisanship they’ve been engaging in,” he added, noting that one year ago, 14 Democrats and one Independent had voted to confirm Pompeo as CIA director. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has said he opposed Pompeo’s nomination based on his gay marriage views, despite his 2008 endorsement of then-Sen. Barack Obama, who had the same views.

Typical hypocrisy..  We’re very glad to hear that Mike Pompeo finally was confirmed by the Senate today!  The man graduated #1 in his class from West Point; NUMBER ONE!  And, that’s how his career started!  He then went on to become a cav officer in the Army, achieving the rank of Captain.  Then he went on to earn a law degree from Harvard, was a lawyer, small businessman, and then ran for Congress where he sat on an Intelligence committee, and most recently was the Director of the CIA.  That’s the kind of resume that is perfect for Secretary of State.  His views on gay marriage are entirely irrelevant to his new job.  And Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) knows it.  He was just grandstanding for his constituents in his quest to run for President.  What a tool..   Congrats to Mike Pompeo!

Chuck Schumer votes against Trump judicial nominee…because he’s white

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer faced a stern rebuke from congressional colleagues for citing skin color in voting against a white federal judge nominee earlier this week. Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Wednesday that the nomination of Marvin Quattlebaum, a white lawyer who is a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Greenville, S.C., “speaks to the overall lack of diversity in President Trump’s selections for the federal judiciary.” He complained that many of Trump’s nominees have been white males. He also complained that Republicans previously held up two black judges nominated under the Obama administration for the position— which The Post and Courier notes has long been vacant. “It is long past time that the judiciary starts looking a lot more like the America it represents,” Schumer said. “Having a diversity of views and experience on the federal bench is necessary for the equal administration of justice.” The senator said that with Quattlebaum’s nomination, the Trump administration was “taking a giant step backwards” in terms of diversity. Quattlebaum was ultimately confirmed to the district judgeship on Thursday, 69-29. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, slammed Schumer for his statements. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday it was actually Schumer’s vote against Quattlebaum that was “a massive step backward.” While Schumer “is not a racist,” Graham tweeted, “this was an absolutely shameful reason to vote against a very qualified nominee like Marvin Quattlebaum.” He added, “Voting against a highly qualified nominee because of the color of his skin does nothing to bring our country and nation together.” Sen. Tim Scott, also a Republican serving South Carolina and the GOP’s sole black senator, tweeted, “Perhaps Senate Democrats should be more worried about the lack of diversity on their own staffs than attacking an extremely well-qualified judicial nominee from the great state of South Carolina.” Schumer asserted that the only reason Quattlebaum was nominated for the unoccupied position was because the state’s Republican senators didn’t return their “blue slips” — a blue form used by senators to voice approval or disapproval for a home state nominee — for Obama nominees Alison Lee and Don Beatty in 2013. Democrats have said that Republicans used blue slips to block about 18 of Obama’s nominations, arguing the denial of a hearing for a nominee without two blue slips was fine with Republicans then. Democrats said the policy shouldn’t change just because the person who sits in the White House is different. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., countered on Twitter that Lee’s nomination “was withdrawn because of a significant bond issue” and Beatty eventually was appointed as the Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Court.

And who, exactly is the real racist here?  Exactly…  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is notorious for shamelessly playing the race card.  Looks like it may have backfired just a little this time..  Regardless, another very qualified Trump nominee has been confirmed, despite the outrageous, hypocritical, and offensive political posturing by Chuck Schumer.  Congrats to this new judge!

Senate approves Alex Azar as HHS secretary

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Alex Azar as secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, entrusting a former pharmaceutical executive to tamp down drug prices and steer President Trump’s attempts to reshape Obamacare. A handful of Democrats joined all but one Republican in approving the nominee, 55-43, brushing aside liberal voices who said Mr. Azar’s track record of raising prices at drugmaker Eli Lilly made him the wrong man for the job. Republicans said Mr. Azar’s resume was an asset, not a liability. A sharp lawyer who served in the Bush administration, Mr. Azar is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of how HHS works and a firm grasp on how perverse market incentives are driving drug prices upward. “His distinguished record – including prior HHS service as deputy secretary and private-sector work – shows he is the right man for the job,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell said. “It is vital that this department be headed by a leader with Mr. Azar’s extensive qualifications and excellent reputation.” Mr. Azar will fill a secretary chair that’s been occupied by acting boss Eric D. Hargan for several months. President Trump’s first pick for the job — former congressman Tom Price — resigned amid revelations he used expensive charter planes for business travel. Once installed, Mr. Azar will oversee a sprawling, $1-trillion agency that regulates and approves drugs, combats disease and runs public health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Senate confirms Jerome Powell as Fed chairman in 85-12 vote

Senators delivered a show of confidence in Jerome Powell, President Trump’s pick for chairman of the Federal Reserve System, voting overwhelmingly Tuesday to confirm him to the position. Mr. Powell, who’s been part of the Fed’s board of governors, will replace Janet Yellen, whom Mr. Trump declined to nominate for a second term. As chairman, Mr. Powell will be the most important voice in deciding how the Federal Reserve moves forward with the economy appearing to be humming yet again, even as banks chafe against restrictions imposed in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street collapse. Tuesday’s 85-12 vote saw just four Republicans and eight members of the Democratic Caucus vote against Mr. Powell, who had enjoyed bipartisan support before. “He has served as a steady voice and thoughtful leader,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in urging his confirmation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called Mr. Powell the “right man at the right time.” The Federal Reserve is an independent government agency charged with keeping inflation in check and supporting job growth. It took on an outsized role in the Wall Street collapse, sparking criticism from some quarters that it had overstepped. More recently the Fed has raised some key interest rates, hoping to keep the economy growing without overheating. Mr. Trump had criticized Ms. Yellen’s performance during the presidential campaign, but in office he changed his tone, even calling her tenure “excellent.” But he did not give her a second term, making her the first chair in decades to be ousted after one four-year period. Her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, served for two terms, and before that Alan Greenspan served for nearly two decades.

Senate Republican Tax Bill Will Repeal Obamacare’s Individual Mandate

Senate Republicans will add the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate to the tax bill, Senate leaders said Tuesday afternoon. President Donald Trump urged the Senate in a tweet Monday to add the repeal. Sen. Rand Paul said on Tuesday morning that he would push for the move. Sen. Tom Cotton also indicated that he supported putting the repeal in the bill. Now, Republican leaders are confirming that the repeal will indeed be part of the bill and that they have enough votes for it to pass through the Senate. “We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate will be helpful,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. John Thune also told reporters that the repeal would be included. The savings from the repeal would “be distributed in the form of middle-income tax relief,” Thune said. Thune also said that the bill had 50 votes in the Senate, enough to pass with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence if done under rules that allow for the passage of certain bills by a bare majority. A repeal of the individual mandate would save $338 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis. “Repealing the mandate pays for more tax cuts for working families and protects them from being fined by the IRS for not being able to afford insurance that Obamacare made unaffordable in the first place,” Sen. Cotton said in a statement, according to the Hill.

YES!!!!  🙂