The Senate’s vote Thursday on the massive transportation bill cleared the way for a move next week by Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to push through as many as 17 judicial nominees — an effort that could possibly tie up the chamber pretty much all the way to the two-week Easter recess that begins April 2.
Reid is trying to pull in enough GOP votes to get the 60 needed to bring the nominees to a vote, one at a time. He’s expected to move only folks supported last year by all or almost all of the eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee .
Unclear whether Reid’s going to omit a Utah nominee from the group — one of that state’s senators, Mike Lee , has been in the forefront of the GOP effort to block confirmations, an effort sparked by President Obama’s move in January to recess-appoint Richard Cordray to be consumer watchdog plus three people to the National Labor Relations Board.
Reid’s move, if it succeeds, would be great news for that group of judicial wannabes. But it’s not so good news for dozens of other nominees already on the Senate floor and hoping for confirmation — something that, even in the best of times, gets even dicier as summer approaches.
That list includes a number of senior positions, such as a deputy secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development; five people for the Energy Department, including an undersecretary and four assistant secretaries; a Treasury undersecretary; and an undersecretary and various assistant secretaries and ambassadors at the State Department.
The Senate did, however, recently approve two judges. And it’s likely a nominee for ambassador to, say, Burma would be approved, so no reason to abandon all hope.
We’re hearing that the White House, which called the recess maneuver essential to keep government agencies functioning, is not inclined to make more such appointments. A perusal of the list of nominees now on the Senate floor doesn’t appear to include anyone who would meet that criterion.
The four-year-long skirmishing at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization over whether to give a “life sciences ” award in the name of Equatorial Guinea “President” Teodoro Obiang Nguema , Africa’s longest-serving dictator, continues.
Obiang won the latest round, as a UNESCO board meeting in Paris on Thursday voted 33 to 19 to remove his name from the prize and replace it with his country’s name, thereby likely allowing the prize to be given.
The United States voted no, but African countries, an Arab bloc, and traditional democracies such as China, Cuba, Belarus, Pakistan and Russia voted in favor.
Human rights groups, Western democracies and prominent African leaders such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had strongly objected to the award, noting that the State Department constantly slams Obiang for things like arbitrary arrest and detention and and judicial corruption.
But Obiang, who put up $3 million for the award (to be given over five years), kept trying, most recently taking his name off the award and just having the country’s name on it.
UNESCO kept stalling, hoping he would just go away or maybe might somehow be embarrassed by charges the money came from Obiang’s preposterous looting of the oil-rich country’s treasury.
Detractors cited a Justice Department effort to seize a $30 million Malibu mansion, a fleet of luxury cars, a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet, Michael Jackson clothing and other items owned by the dictator’s playboy son, who has a yearly salary of $81,000.
Just weeks ago French authorities, investigating alleged embezzlement, reportedly seized truckloads of art and antiquities said to be worth more than $50 million from the son’s six-floor mansion in a tony Paris neighborhood.
But, despite Thursday’s vote, the fight over the prize may not be over. Despite UNESCO’s inspired effort to discredit itself, the organization’s legal office has determined that legal problems related to the name change and other matters may make it impossible to award the prize.
Washington stopped paying $80 million in dues and contributions to UNESCO after the organization granted membership to the Palestinian Authority in October.
Thursday’s action sure isn’t going to help efforts to restore that funding.
Knows what he likes
There’s a new salvo in the ongoing turf war between the Federal Trade Commission and the chairman of the House transportation committee, John Mica .
Mica has long had his eye on the FTC headquarters’ primo real estate on Pennsylvania Avenue — space he thinks is perfect for a new wing of the National Gallery. This week, his committee passed a resolution directing the General Services Administration to produce a plan for the agency-for-museum switcheroo.