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As new session gets underway, Biden begins sending nominees back to Senate

Requirement to renominate a sign of breakdown in Senate-White House relations

Snow falls on the East Front of the Capitol during the snowstorm in Washington on Monday.
Snow falls on the East Front of the Capitol during the snowstorm in Washington on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Joe Biden has begun the process of renominating his choices to positions requiring Senate confirmation, even some who already have had committee hearings and votes.

The process began Monday night, when the White House announced it was sending the Senate a number of nominations for the federal bench, including Alison J. Nathan for a seat on the 2nd Circuit. Nathan, currently a federal district judge in New York’s Southern District, had a confirmation hearing in December.

Biden will need to renominate an array of picks for key posts in the days ahead, including would-be federal judges and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

It is partly a formality, but also partly a sign of the ongoing breakdown of comity between the Senate and the White House. Under Senate rules, nominations not confirmed by the end of a legislative session must be returned to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue and resubmitted. This time there was an agreement to keep many nominees pending as “status quo,” but the Senate’s executive calendar showed that many others were not as lucky.

The need for new nomination paperwork was triggered ahead of the formal end of the first session of the 117th Congress, which came with the Senate session on Monday, truncated by a snowstorm in Washington. Despite the formal paperwork required for renomination, there usually is not a demand for a repeat nomination hearing.

Some of the nominees who were returned had been formally nominated in recent weeks, or had just received favorable committee consideration. But others have stalled, like Biden’s nomination of Helaine Ann Greenfeld to be assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, which has been out of the Judiciary Committee since the summer.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer had success in moving a large package of judicial and executive branch nominees with a grueling series of roll call votes during a late-night session on Dec. 17 that extended into Dec. 18. But far more nominees were left pending.

Aside from nominees to be federal judges, foremost among the confirmation priorities for the new year may be Powell and Lael Brainard, the president’s nominee to be vice chair of the Federal Reserve.

“These nominees are vitally important to our economic health and national security, and they should be confirmed immediately,” a spokesperson for Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement. “Senator Brown will work with the Biden administration to confirm these highly qualified nominees quickly in the new year.”

All told, the White House will need to determine whether to resubmit more than 100 nominations, including other notable names like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be ambassador to India and David Weil to return to the position of chief of the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor, which he held during the Obama administration.

A group of GOP senators called for the Weil nomination, in particular, not to be sent to the Senate again, citing his past record and the fact that a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee markup in August did not lead to a favorable vote to report.

Because Weil’s nomination deadlocked, it would have required Schumer to go through the process of discharging the HELP panel on the floor under the special procedures in effect for the 50-50 Senate in this Congress.

“In the nearly five months that followed this failed business meeting, no action was taken by the full Senate to discharge or otherwise consider his nomination. On December 21, 2021, this nomination was formally returned to the White House, as the Senate did not give consent to hold over Dr. Weil’s nomination,” the Republicans, including HELP ranking member Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., wrote in a letter to the president.

Caitlin Reilly contributed to this report.

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