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The Week Ahead in Congress

June 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House of Representatives is out of session this week and they’ll be out for the better part of next week as well. Today is the House’s 54th day off from legislating since convening in January, not including weekends.

The Senate will be in session this week, but it’s unclear at this point what they’ll be working on. There will be no votes today. The only thing on the schedule for the afternoon is a floor speech from Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT], which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET and last for up to 90 minutes.

Tomorrow, under a unanimous consent agreement that was entered last week, they’ll be voting on three of Obama judicial nominees:

The Senate previously entered into a consent agreement with respect to the Cole, Monaco and Seitz nominations and has now determined a time to begin debate on the nominations.

At 10am on Tuesday, June 28th, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session to consider the following nominations, en bloc:

  • Calendar #62 James Michael Cole, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Attorney General
  • Calendar #145 Lisa O. Monaco, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Attorney General
  • Calendar #110 Virginia A. Seitz, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Attorney General
  • There will be 2 hours for concurrent debate on the nominations equally divided in the usual form. Upon the use or yielding back of time (at approximately 12:00pm), the Senate will proceed to vote on the nominations in the order listed.

After that, they’ll most likely return to the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, which would remove 200 or so executive positions from the list of those requiring Senate confirmation. The bill is subject to filibuster, but it is expected to pass with bipartisan support. Last week, Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA] pushed back against the argument circulating around conspiracy-theory-leaning conservative sites that the bill is some sort of back-door attempt to make Obama a dictator:

Some have argued that, through this bill, the Senate cedes some of its constitutional power to the executive branch. However, this bill actually represents an exercise of the Senate’s constitutional prerogatives. The Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether a particular position should be categorized as an inferior officer that need not go through the Senate confirmation process. The Senate has a number of important responsibilities that it must undertake, and it is questionable whether spending time confirming, for instance, the Alternate Federal Cochairman, Appalachian Regional Commission, is the most appropriate use of our limited time and resources. Prioritizing our work for the American people, by eliminating some Senate-confirmed positions, does not diminish the Senate’s authority.

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