Senate GOP Makes Case for Senate Rules Reform with Procedural Tricks to Slow Labor, EPA Nominations

Washington, DC – With their back-to-back procedural delays injected into the nominations process for Cabinet-level nominees Thomas Perez at the Department of Labor and Gina McCarthy at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Senate Republicans have taken Senate obstruction to new levels in the past 24 hours, the Fix the Senate Now coalition said today.

Instead of advancing Cabinet nominees for a “yes or no” vote, Senate Republicans have relied on unprecedented procedural tricks and partisan obstruction to delay both nominations. What used to be sacrosanct – the nominations process for Cabinet-level nominees like Perez and McCarthy – is now open season for partisan obstruction using obscure Senate rules.

If observers needed another reminder about the failure of January’s compromise Senate rules reform agreement and the larger and continued need for substantial reform to the Senate’s outdated rules, this week’s proceedings make a compelling case. See below for more on this week’s unprecedented obstruction:

  • Thomas Perez at the Department of Labor: As the Los Angeles Times explains, “The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions was scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon to decide whether to recommend the nomination of Thomas E. Perez, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, to the full Senate. But Republicans on the panel refused to allow what is usually a routine waiver of an obscure Senate rule that prohibits committees from meeting after the full Senate has been in session for two hours.” Of note, the obstructionist tactic used to delay Perez’s vote was advanced in secret, demonstrating that Senate rules are not only obscure and outdated, but also lacking in accountability and transparency.
  • Gina McCarthy at the Environmental Protection Agency: Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and other Republicans on the Senate are boycotting the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) hearing vote scheduled for today on the nomination of EPA head Gina McCarthy, thereby denying the committee the necessary quorum to advance the nomination forward.  Despite the nominee’s resume of working under five Republican governors, Senator Vitter and his colleagues have issued a “record-shattering barrage of per-confirmation questions” to McCarthy, according to POLITICO.  Despite the fact that McCarthy has responded with greater than four times the previous record number of answers, Vitter and his colleagues are now using the pretext of a supposed lack of responsiveness as the rationale for their refusal to move the nominations process forward.


Gina McCarthy & Thomas Perez

    Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) captured the major takeaway from this week’s proceedings, saying yesterday, “Republican obstructionism and procedural tricks are preventing this body from carrying out its duties, including its obligation to consider important presidential nominations.” 

    For more information, or to schedule an interview with Fix the Senate Now leaders, contact Michael Earls at 202-261-2388,