With just days left for the 113th Congress to finish their business before the year is out, this Congress appears to be the least productive in history. Between January 1, 2013 and December 2 - paltry total of 55 laws passed. Recently though, Senate Democrats voted to eliminate the filibuster on executive and judicial nominations (except Supreme Court nominees). Now, a simple majority of 51 votes is needed rather than the 60 previously required to override the filibuster. This power move by Senate Democrats snatches away a key tool used by the Senate Republicans to obstruct the process by denying nominees a committee vote. The new rule will enable the nominees to move forward since they will be shielded from raucous partisan politics in the Senate. Nominees for key positions such as Jeh Johnson (Secretary of Department of Homeland Security), Janet Yellen (Chairman of Federal Reserve), Mel Watt (Federal Housing Finance Agency) along with the D.C Circuit Court nominees, Patricia Ann Millett, Cornelia T.L. Pillard and Robert L. Wilkins can move forward.
Jeh Johnson, the nominee to run the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has passed out of committee and is headed for a full Senate confirmation vote. Last week, Roland Martin of NewsOne, “moderated” a brief yet rather contentious debate on Mr. Johnson’s qualifications. The debate erupted between panelists, Dr. Wilmer Leon and Angela Rye, when Ms. Rye took issue with Dr. Leon raising doubts regarding Mr. Johnson’s qualifications. During the spirited back and forth, Dr. Leon analysis focused on policy and on Mr. Johnson’s political views while Ms. Rye’s argument centered on DHS needs. She also appeared to lament over the double standard afforded to African American nominees. “You have to be twice as good to outpace everyone else,” asserted Ms. Rye. Dr. Leon pointed out Mr. Johnson’s position on the U.S. drone policy and countered, “I don’t question his credentials as an attorney, I question his competence from an ideological perspective. I just don’t see a lot of his positions consistent with the Constitution in this country.”