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Senate Confirms Labor Solicitor

February 4, 2010 - by Eric Naing

After nearly ten months of waiting, the Department of Labor finally has a solicitor. The Senate today, in a party-line vote of 60-37, confirmed Patricia Smith, President Obama’s nominee to serve as the department’s top lawyer.

All 58 Democrats as well as Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] and Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] were needed to overcome a Republican filibuster blocking Smith. But with Scott Brown expected to join the Senate soon, Democrats will lose that 60th vote and will have to court at least one Republican to confirm Obama nominees in the future.

The fact that moderates like Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] and Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME] voted against what was considered to be a fairly routine nomination does not bode well for more controversial nominees such as Dawn Johnsen for the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Council or Marisa Demeo for D.C. Superior Court.

In recent days, Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has criticized Republicans for holding up Obama nominees, particularly on national security grounds:

We all know Republicans have dedicated themselves to grinding government to a halt. It’s why they have wasted countless hours and shattered remarkable records for stubbornness. It’s why, when we have faced questions of national security, they have answered with politics.

An example Reid points to is the hold placed by Sen. Jim DeMint [R, SC] on Erroll Southers, the president’s nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration. Thanks to the Senate’s failure to confirm Southers, the TSA has been acting without a leader – particularly at a time when a 23-year-old Nigerian tried to take down a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. DeMint’s hold was placed on his objection to Southers’s willingness to let TSA employees unionize. Southers has since withdrawn his nomination.

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