Reid Decries Attendance Woes as He Readies Nominations Push (Updated)

( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:39pm

Updated 4:55 p.m. | Senators faced a scolding from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday afternoon about attendance — likely a bad sign for Monday evening’s nomination test vote.

“Everyone should understand this vote tonight is a very important vote. I’m disappointed some senators aren’t going to be here,” the Nevada Democrat said when the Senate convened Monday afternoon. “I think we’ve become complacent in not worrying about Monday night votes.”

Monday evening votes are often of the “bed check” variety, with little to no suspense. That may not be the case in the weeks between now and the Thanksgiving break, Reid warned.

Just before the post-shutdown recess, Reid had moved to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on President Barack Obama’s pick of Richard F. Griffin Jr., to be the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel for the next four years.

Griffin previously held one of the controversial recess appointments to the NLRB, which is one reason his nomination is contentious.

Of course, 60 votes are required to invoke cloture. Reid will need the backing of his caucus and at least six Republicans. He may well have the votes, but based on his comments Monday, those votes might not materialize Monday night.

If that’s the case, Reid could vote against his own motion for procedural reasons to allow for a do-over as early as Tuesday.

“If we’re going to finish our work in this four-week period, we’ll have to work. We’ll work on Mondays and Fridays, and I hope we don’t have to do weekends but we’ve got to get this work done.” Reid said.

While the idea of not working on Friday may sound absurd, there have been long stretches in recent years without any roll call votes on Fridays.

Reid has a list of nominations that have faced procedural objections or holds that he would like to slog through before turning back to legislative business. Possibilities include Katherine Archuleta to head the Office of Personnel Management, Alan F. Estevez to a senior Pentagon post, Tom Wheeler to be Federal Communications Commission chairman and current North Carolina Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt to the top housing finance position.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, reportedly has a hold on the FCC nomination over the FCC’s handling of campaign finance disclosure rules for television ads. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office told CQ Roll Call that the Kentucky Republican, the chamber’s most vocal opponent of political speech limits, raised the issue directly with Wheeler.

Also in line would be at least the first of the three nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Patricia Ann Millett

Update 4:55 p.m.

After 4 p.m., Reid scratched the schedule cloture vote on Griffin’s nomination, pushing it off until a time to be determined on Tuesday, again citing attendance issues.

“We have a number of senators that aren’t going to be here tonight, five that I know of — Democrats and Republicans,” Reid said.

Reid also filed cloture on a number of other nominations to executive and judicial posts. Under the Senate’s rules, the cloture motions will ripen for votes starting on Wednesday.

The nominations, in order of filing, are: Estevez, Archuleta, Wheeler, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew to international bank positions, Watt and Millett.

Separately, senior administration officials met Monday with a number of financial industry leaders to support the case for an up-or-down vote on Watt’s nomination to take the helm at the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The Democratic caucus will gain an additional member on Halloween, with the swearing-in of Newark Mayor Cory Booker as the next senator from New Jersey.