Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is up to his dirty political tricks. He’s sitting on the jobs bill that passed the House last week with 390 votes and has the president’s endorsement. Instead of taking it up, the Nevada Democrat announced on Monday he will force votes this week on 17 of President Obama’s lifetime judicial nominees. Mr. Reid is manufacturing this fight to paint Republicans as obstructionists in a tight election year.
There’s no backlog of nominations to complain about, as the Senate has approved seven judges so far this year. The president bears the most blame for any remaining vacancies, having only nominated 39 to fill 83 currently empty slots. In mid-February, Mr. Reid fumed that the GOP had blocked some of Mr. Obama’s nonjudicial nominees, threatening to “recommend to the president he recess appoint all these people, every one of them.”
Republicans are still upset that Mr. Obama in January installed a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief and members to the National Labor Relations Board without Senate approval. “When he made a recess appointment when the Senate didn’t consider itself in recess, that changed the game,” freshman Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, told The Washington Times on Monday.
The Judiciary Committee member has led the protest against more White House nominees. “Ours is not a government of one. This was a dangerous precedent, and we need to oppose it,” he explained. Mr. Lee told us he will vote against all appointments in committee and on the floor until the president rescinds the “recess” nominees and stops making them.
Only Sen. Jim DeMint joined Mr. Lee in opposing five of the judicial nomination votes this year. “President Obama has shown a complete disdain for the people’s elected representatives and our duty to advise and consent on nominations,” the South Carolina Republican told The Washington Times. “Unless he revokes his unprecedented recess appointments that defied the constitutional role of Congress, I don’t intend to support any of his judicial nominees this year.”
Mr. Reid’s decision this week to invoke cloture has raised the ire of many more in the Republican caucus. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking for ways to protest the “recess” appointments. The Kentucky Republican has been gathering support in his conference for a response, which may be reflected in this week’s vote, as well as looking for the right lawsuit to join an amicus brief to challenge the validity of the earlier nonrecess “recess” nominees.
Senate Republicans are also considering invoking the Thurmond Rule early to stop all Mr. Obama’s lifetime appointments to the bench. The rule stops the Senate from moving on nominees in the last six months of a president’s term.
Mr. Lee is glad his colleagues are stepping up to fight this latest move. “The president’s unconstitutional abuse of his recess appointment power represents a threat to the institution,” said Mr. Lee. “It’s not partisan. It’s not Democrat or Republican.” While the GOP shouldn’t fall into Mr. Reid’s obstructionist trap, it should do whatever possible to check the president’s outsized powers.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.