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Reid, Bush Reach Deal on Nominees

After two days of intense negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Bush administration struck a deal Friday to confirm dozens of stalled Republican and Democratic executive branch nominees.

But even with the last-minute deal, Reid decided to keep the Senate operating in nonvoting, pro-forma sessions while lawmakers are home for the July Fourth recess that spans until July 8. According to Reid’s office, the Senate will be gaveled for a pro-forma meeting on Monday.

Reid has regularly held the Senate in pro-forma sessions during recesses to prevent Bush from installing controversial executive branch nominees while Senators are out of town. In effect, the pro-forma sessions block Bush from exercising his ability to install nominees by recess appointment.

Reid and the White House agreed on Friday to approve a series of nominees by voice vote, including key Democratic appointees to the Securities and Exchange Commission and one of Bush’s picks to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Reid has long made filling vacancies on the SEC a priority, while the White House has been pushing to fill openings on the Reserve Board.

“The Senate today confirmed many important nominations, including posts to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission, FEMA, the State Department and numerous high-level career and political ambassadorial nominees,” Reid said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“In confirming Elizabeth A. Duke for a term through 2012, we are ensuring the Fed can function during these difficult economic times,” Reid continued. “And we are restoring Democratic representation to the SEC, where it had been absent. I am pleased that we were able to reach an agreement with the president and Senate Republicans so we can name these well-qualified public servants to the distinguished positions for which they have been nominated.”

The fight over executive branch nominations has been ongoing since Democrats took control of the Senate last year. It was particularly heated last April when Bush opted to install several controversial nominees during Senators’ spring recess, including Republican donor Sam Fox as ambassador to Belgium.

Since then, Reid has regularly kept the Senate operating over recesses. Additionally, he has made plain that he no longer plans to confirm any partisan Bush nominee whose appointment would tip the balance of a particular board or association to the GOP, and whose term stretches beyond the president’s tenure.

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