Recent activity to the contrary, the Senate remains the top place where Congress earns its do-nothing epithets. In part because he can, Senate Minority Leader McConnell has objected to the Senate voting on the confirmation of over one hundred individuals. Besides the number of military promotions, three science and technology positions are affected.
- Associate Director of National Security and International Affairs at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Phil Coyle
- Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Scott Doney
- Undersecretary of Energy, Arun Majumdar
Coyle and Majumdar are both in their current positions. Coyle currently serves under a recess appointment, which would expire at the end of the current session of Congress. That is expected sometime in the next few days. Coyle’s nomination was (and probably still is) opposed because he does not support missile defense. Manjumdar currently serves as Acting Undersecretary and is also director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. His confirmation hearing was just last week.
Coney’s confirmation was on hold due to the objection of Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. Vitter (as do other Senators) commonly “hold” votes on confirmations and legislation either out of direct opposition or in order to win concessions on other matters. While NOAA is a Commerce Department agency, the Senator has been after various Interior Department personnel in connection to offshore drilling and other matters.
The only one likely not affected by the maneuver is Majumdar, who is already serving in an acting capacity. Coyle will likely need another recess appointment, which is not a guarantee. Coney will likely remain at Woods Hole for the time being.
The Senate has been circumventing the Presidential power to make recess appointments by having a Senator call the body to order for a few minutes every couple of days to avoid being officially in recess. McConnell’s action suggests this tactic may not happen during the holiday break – or he just wants to stop up the government some more after they finally finished a budget nearly three months into the new fiscal year.