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Mr. COBURN. OK. I will take that reading of the law as an assumption that agrees with the position I put out there.
I would say--if the Chair would give me some time in consideration of my reserving the right to object--I served in the majority for 2 years prior to the Senators who are here on the floor today, and I understand the frustration. I have been there. I was on the other side. It is difficult. In terms of numbers, we have more of President Obama's nominees cleared than President Bush's nominees at the same point in time.
I wish to raise the question. I am going to comply. First, I don't have any problem explaining why I hold somebody. The BBG nominees: The BBG is in such a mess, I want to make sure I visit with every nominee before I give them a clearance to get on that board, because we are wasting three-quarters of a billion dollars there and not doing anything positive for our country as we spend that money.
There are a lot of reasons why we hold people. One of the dangers of coming forward, from my experience as a Senator myself, of putting a hold on and then putting it out there, is this: If I want to do further work or study or have a question, the assumption with a hold is that you don't want them to move, and that may not be the case at all. The reason for a hold oftentimes is I want to look at the history, I want to look at the background, and I want to take the time to meet the individual myself. That fulfills the true obligation of advise and consent.
I would also say we were frustrated when we were in the majority the same way, and we played the same kind of parlance, except with our own nominees. When somebody on our side had a hold, we didn't ever mention that. We didn't ever complain about that. We just complained when the other side did. So the perspective has to be--understanding the frustration; the President deserves advice and consent--but I also know there are 150 nominees right now sitting in committee who haven't been cleared in committee and we are a year and a half, a year and 4 months into this administration. It is not just that.
I intend to object to every one of these, not because I personally have an objection, and I want my colleagues to know that, but one of the considerations of courtesy on the Senate floor is if somebody else does, you will honor that.
The final point I will make is that the majority and minority leader usually work these things out. I think we passed 28 in the last few weeks, probably because of some of the good effort of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to apply the pressure and heat. But I plan to object to every one of these because there are those on our side who have a problem with the individual. But I don't disagree that you ought to have the courage to stand up and say who you are holding and why you are holding them. I don't disagree with that. But that isn't our case right now and that isn't the case of the law, as I understand it; it just removes the obligation.
So on that basis I will object to this first package and plan on objecting to every other one in forbearance and as a courtesy to those on my side of the aisle who have a problem with these nominees.
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Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, I say to Senator Coburn that we very much understand that he is doing this for others. We want them to step forward. We want to get rid of these secret holds, as the Senator from Oklahoma has stepped forward on the broadcasting board. He has said he is holding up six people to go on that board of governors. It is out there in public, and it is something that all of us can examine and the media can examine. We can figure out whether his objections are legitimate. But that is the process. That is what is going on--secretly delaying the administration from getting its team in place.
Let's admit what is going on here. The folks who are putting on these holds do not want to see the President have his team in place. If he doesn't have his team in place, I think the expectation is that they think he would not be able to do the job.
Once again, the President nominated somebody important to work with Secretary Chu at the Department of Energy.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session for the purpose of consideration of Calendar No. 726, Patricia A. Hoffman, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy; that the nomination be confirmed; that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table; that no further motions be in order; that the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and that any statements relating to the nominee be printed in the Record as if read.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection?
Mr. COBURN. I object.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Objection is heard.
Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Once again, they are being held up through secret holds, and Senator Coburn has said he is doing this on behalf of Members on his side--not allowing all of these people to get into the government and do the job. We are talking about important government agencies, such as the Department of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State, Secretary of Energy--all objected to today.
Many of these nominations have been pending for a while. There are very few objections in committee. This is something that is being put forward for the purpose of delay.
Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator yield for a moment?
Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. I am going to yield to the Senator from Minnesota.
Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator from Minnesota yield?
Ms. KLOBUCHAR. For a minute, sure.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Oklahoma.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I think the motives ascribed by the Senator from New Mexico are improper. I do not think it is so people can't get into a job to cause President Obama problems. I reject that motive.
With any administration, there is a very big difference of opinion. That is why we have elections. That is why things move like this in our country. It is about whether somebody objects to somebody's either philosophical bent or qualifications for a certain job.
I make the point again that at the same time under a Republican Congress, President Bush had fewer numbers approved than President Obama does at this time.
I hope we would not ascribe that motive. I want President Obama to have, in fact, the people he needs to have in place to effectively run our government. I will give the numbers again. To this date, President Obama has 596 of his nominees confirmed. At the same time, President Bush had 570. In the two previous administrations, President Bill Clinton had 740 and President George H.W. Bush had 700.
I think what my colleagues are fighting for is fine. I agree with them. I am on the team as far as that is concerned. But I think we ought to be careful with the motives we ascribe. I really do not think it is to try to handcuff the administration. I think it is different. Of course, the sign that is being put up is about who is pending. I understand that. Let's be careful on the ascribing of motives. As I talk with my colleagues, I do not really find that motive. Even though they may not be out front with it as I have been, that does not mean they necessarily want the administration to not be effective.
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