Senate blocks its first Obama nominee

The GOP led a successful filibuster of David Hayes, the president's choice for deputy secretary of the Interior Department.

Published May 13, 2009 4:10PM (EDT)

On Wednesday morning, Senate Republicans succeeded for the first time in voting down one of President Obama's nominees. Democrats were unable to break a filibuster against David Hayes, Obama's choice to become deputy secretary of the Interior.

Hayes himself wasn't the reason Republicans decided to filibuster his nomination; in fact, he'd been confirmed to the same post during the Clinton administration. But they decided to use the opportunity to take a stand against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to overturn some of the actions the Bush administration instituted as it left office, including the issuance of dozens of oil and gas drilling leases.

Democrats could only muster 57 votes for cloture, three short of the 60 needed to end the filibuster. Really, though, they needed just two votes, as Majority Leader Harry Reid voted against for procedural reasons (his vote means Democrats can try again). So it's a bit puzzling as to why he allowed the vote to be held without Sens. Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Barbara Mikulski, none of whom voted. Kennedy, obviously, remains ill and is missing all but the most important votes -- but that's not the case for Kerry and Mikulski, and with those two votes, the filibuster could have been overcome.

A spokesman for Reid wasn't immediately available for comment.

Update: Reid spokesman Jim Manley tells Salon the vote was held Wednesday because Democrats "simply got tired of Republicans slow-walking, and needed to see where the votes were." He added, "it's just a matter of time, at some point [Hayes] is going to be confirmed," but declined to provide a timeline for when that might occur.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room