Why are Republicans Objecting to So Many of Obama’s Nominations of Women?

Thursday, January 21, 2010
Dawn Johnsen

Congressional delays of President Barack Obama’s appointments to federal posts are considerably worse than they were during the beginning of former President George W. Bush’s first term. After one year in office, Bush was still waiting for 70 appointees to be confirmed. Obama, however, is waiting on 176. The longest and most high-profile delays seem to be those of women. While the reasons vary for Obama’s pending confirmations, many of the delays originate with Republicans.

Miriam Sapiro, selected to be a deputy U.S. trade representative, was held up because Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky wanted to send a message from the tobacco industry: oppose Canada’s banning of flavored cigarettes like cloves, or else. Bunning reportedly relented after Democrats agreed to put a Republican, Michael Khouri, on the Federal Maritime Commission, however Sapiro remains unconfirmed nine months after her nomination.
On February 11, 2009, President Obama nominated Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is responsible for giving legal advice to the president. Republicans objected to her support for abortion rights and her criticisms of the Bush administration’s use of torture, and threatened to filibuster if the nomination came to the full Senate. The election of Scott Brown to represent Massachusetts in the Senate on January 20, 2010, may allow the Republicans to kill Johnsen’s nomination.
The nomination of Lael Brainard to be under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs (overseeing the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and issues relating to international taxes) has been held up since March 23, 2009, because Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa objected to Brainard’s initial failure to acknowledge her late payments of property taxes. The amount in question: $1,401.09. Curiously, Brainard’s husband, Kurt Campbell, flew through the confirmation process when he was nominated to head the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Martha Johnson’s nomination to be the administrator of the General Service Administration (GSA), which provides procurement services to federal agencies, was approved by the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works in June. But Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri) put a hold on Johnson’s confirmation as part of a battle in which he wants a new federal office building built in Kansas City.
The delays also affect the judicial branch. President Obama nominated Marisa Demeo for a seat on the D.C. Superior Court on March 24, 2009, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her on May 20. However, Demeo, who is Mexican-American and lesbian, remains unconfirmed.
- David Wallechinsky
Help Wanted (by Annie Lowery, Foreign Policy)
Legislative Limbo Strands Many of Obama’s Nominees (by Helene Cooper, New York Times)


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