Who is Elizabeth Littlefield?
A disturbing trend in the Senate is the growing use of anonymous “holds” to keep nominees from getting a floor vote. A hold is a threat by a Senator (made privately to the Majority Leader) to refuse a request for unanimous consent and insist on the filing of a cloture petition. Since this is a time-consuming process, in many instances a hold is successful in blocking the nominee. What’s worse, nobody usually knows who is placing the hold on a candidate. Although holds must be disclosed after six days, senators are getting around this by swapping holds back and forth (like a hot potato) so that nobody can be held accountable. As a result, holds can be used as secret bargaining chips to get an extra bridge or a special tax loophole.
This practice is especially pernicious because it tends to focus on mid-range candidates that are not controversial. Take Elizabeth Littlefield, who is the President’s choice to head the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). OPIC is a federal agency that facilitates U.S. investment in underdeveloped countries. She was nominated in November and approved by the Foreign Relations Committee in April. She is highly qualified for the position, and I am aware of no objection to her on political or ideological grounds. Nevertheless, some GOP senator has placed a hold on her and she’s now dead in the water.
This is an outrage. Hardly any of you have probably heard of OPIC, so why should an excellent nominee with broad support be stymied in secret by a few senators? The President should stop this nonsense by giving Littlefield and other similar situated candidates a recess appointment as soon as possible. (Granted, that would only last for a few months, but another recess appointment could be made early next year.)