Senate GOP blocks two Obama nominees, raising stakes in bitter fight
Credit: Kim Uhl/CNN
Republicans blocked two high-profile presidential nominees on Thursday as the bitter fight over appointments escalated in the U.S. Senate.
It was not clear how majority Democrats would respond to filibusters against Judge Patricia Millett, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, and Rep. Melvin Watt, who was named to head the agency that oversees housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Democrats fell short in procedural votes called to move forward on the nominations. It was possible they might carry out a threat to change Senate rules, over GOP objections, and invoke the so-called “nuclear option” to prevent future filibusters of appointments.
But Republicans argued that Millett’s appointment to the post that has been a stepping stone for some to the U.S. Supreme Court was unnecessary.
They said the appeals panel now is evenly divided between judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents and doesn’t have enough work to justify an additional member even though there are three vacancies.
Democrats said the filibuster was a transparent attempt to maintain conservative influence on the court.
Earlier in the day, Republicans also blocked Obama’s nomination of Watt, a North Carolina Democrat, to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, an independent federal entity that has been in control of Fannie and Freddie since their taxpayer rescue last decade during the housing crisis.
Republicans argued Watt is not independent enough and lacks expertise to run the agency.
Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee more than half of all outstanding mortgages in the United States, according to the Congressional Budget Office.