Obama's federal nominees, 2013

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This page will track the various high-level nominations made by President Barack Obama in 2013.

The Plum Book

The United States Policy and Supporting Positions, or Plum Book, is released by the Government Printing Office (GPO) at the start of every presidential term. It lays out which offices in the federal government are to be appointed by the president when vacated.[1] The Plum Book released for President Obama's second term covered 8,138 presidentially appointed offices.[2] These offices represent both high-level cabinet members, who must be confirmed by the Senate, as well as those who do not require Senate confirmation. According to the Plum Book, 1,217 positions require confirmation during Obama's second term. As of November 20, 2013, 158 of those 1,217 positions were vacant.[2]

List of 2013 nominees

The following is a compilation of notable appointments by Barack Obama during 2013.[3]


"Nuclear option"

On November 21, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the "nuclear option" in the Senate. The "nuclear option" is using an interpretation of Senate procedure to be able to change chamber rules with a simple majority vote. In this case, the option was used to change the vote requirement for executive nominee confirmations to be considered on the floor.[4] Prior to the rule change, Senators could filibuster until a cloture motion requiring 60 votes was passed in the chamber. The "nuclear option" changed the requirement to a simple majority. The threat of the "nuclear option" occurred in many Congresses, but none had put the option into use.[5]
Harry Reid's tweeted chart from November 21, 2013

The "nuclear option" was invoked in response to Senate Republicans blocking the nomination of three D.C. Circuit Court judges. The rule change passed by a vote of 52-48, with Carl Levin, Joe Manchin and Mark Pryor being the only Democrats to vote in opposition. According to the Congressional Research Service, of the 67 times between 1967 and 2012 the filibuster was used on a judicial nominee, 31 have been during during the Obama administration.[5]

Reid's "filibuster" graphic

When invoking the "nuclear option," Reid tweeted a graphic suggesting half of the filibusters on nominees in the history of the United States had been used against Obama nominees. The graphic was based on a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on "cloture attempts at nominations," which, while closely correlated, the CRS acknowledged was not an accurate measurement for counting uses of the filibuster. The Washington Post reported that while many of Obama's nominees were delayed in the confirmation process, only 12 did not reach a final vote. For comparison, President George W. Bush had 14 nominees not reach a final vote during his terms as president. Reid later corrected the graphic to show the correct metrics.[6]

Delayed nominations

According to data drawn from the White House, the average time between a nomination and confirmation during the 111th Congress for the 537 executive nominees was 115.5 days. In 112th Congress, the average time between a nomination and confirmation for the 525 executive nominees was 168.5 days. As of August 1, 2013, the average time for confirmed nominees in the 113th Congress was 86.0 days, 212 days into the session.[7][3]

Blocked nominations

On October 31, 2013, the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to the Federal Housing Finance Agency was blocked by Senate Republicans by means of a filibuster. Cloture was not reached with a vote of 56-42, leaving Watt the first sitting congressman to be denied confirmation to an appointed office since 1843.[8] Both the Obama administration and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were hopeful of a future confirmation.[9] Sen. Lindsey Graham insisted he would block every nominee until more information on Benghazi was released, while Sen. Rand Paul stated he would block the nomination of Janet Yellen until his Federal Reserve bill was passed.[8]

Three of the president's nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court, Robert Wilkins, Nina Pillard and Patricia Millett were blocked by the Senate using the filibuster. Senate Democrats could not overcome the 60 votes required to reach the simple majority vote for confirmation. Republicans argued they haven't approved any of the nominees because "It's the least busy court in the country," according to Mitch McConnell.[10]

In December 2013, Mel Watt and Patricia Millett were among the first nominees to be confirmed following the "nuclear option."[11]

Threats to delay nominees


According to the United States Senate, a hold is "An informal practice by which a senator informs his or her floor leader that he or she does not wish a particular bill or other measure to reach the floor for consideration. The majority leader need not follow the senator's wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure."[12]

Republicans threatened to block Obama's presidential nominees through the use of holds for various political reasons. Since the Democratic Party holds the majority in the chamber, the Majority Leader, Harry Reid, can move the nominations to the floor but would risk the possibility of a filibuster.

2013 uses
  • On November 20, Sen. Chuck Grassley placed a hold on the nomination of Jeh Johnson to secretary of Homeland Security until Johnson agreed to cooperate on oversight matters and work with the Senate to improve immigration policy.[13]
  • On October 31, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand placed a hold on the nomination of Jo Ann Rooney to undersecretary of the Navy due to comments on the handling of sexual assault cases in the military.[15]
  • On October 30, Sen. Rand Paul said in a statement he would place a hold on Janet Yellen's nomination in an effort to push legislation requiring audits of the Federal Reserve.[16]
  • On October 17, Sen. Ted Cruz placed a hold on the nomination of Tom Wheeler to lead the Federal Communications Commission until Wheeler agreed not to require more disclosures on political advertising.[17] Cruz lifted the hold on October citing coorespondence with Wheeler about disclosures for political ads.[18]
  • On February 10, Sen. Lindsey Graham began his threat to place holds on nominees until the administration released more information about the Benghazi terror attack. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and CIA Director John Brennan were the first to have holds placed on them by Graham.[19]


According to the United States Senate a filibuster is an "Informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions."[20]

Cloture votes
According to the United States Senate cloture is "The only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcome a filibuster."[21] When the "nuclear option" was invoked by Sen. Harry Reid, the rules for cloture votes were changed from a requirement of 60 votes to break a filibuster to only a majority, significantly weakening the use of the filibuster to delay confirmation votes. Once a cloture motion is passed, one session day must pass before up to 30 hours of debate take place. A CRS report stated an average of 5.03 days passed between the day the motion passed and the day the bill was taken up.

Hour 1 Rand Paul's 13 hour filibuster
2013 uses
  • On March 6, 2013, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R) led a nearly 13-hour filibuster of President Obama's CIA Director nominee, John Brennan. Paul started the filibuster in order to highlight his concerns about the administration's drone policies. In particular, Paul said he was concerned about whether a drone could be used to kill an American citizen within the United States border, without any due process involved. Paul and other civil liberties activists have been critical that President Obama did not offer a clear response to the question. A total of 14 senators joined Paul in the filibuster -- 13 Republicans and one Democrat.[22][23]
  • On December 11, 2013, Senate Republicans began to rebel against the use of the "nuclear option" by forcing delays using as much as possible of the "post-cloture debate time." For nine of the ten names that were on Majority Leader Harry Reid's list, 8 hours of debate can be demanded, while Jeh Johnson's nomination allows for up to 30 hours of debate. On the use of the tactic to delay nominations, Reid stated, "It is hard to imagine a more pointless exercise than spending an entire day waiting for a vote whose outcome we already know. But Republicans insist on wasting time simply for the sake of wasting time."[24]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term Obama + Federal + Nominees + 2013

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

2013 Obama Nominees News Feed

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See also


  1. FCW, "How to become a presidential appointee," November 9,2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 Plum Book, "Home," accessed November 20, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 The White House, "Nominations and Appointments," accessed December 12, 2013
  4. Politico, "Senate goes for 'nuclear option'," November 21, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 Washington Post, "Reid, Democrats trigger 'nuclear' option; eliminate most filibusters on nominees," November 21, 2013
  6. Washington Post, "Harry Reid's tweet on Obama's 'filibustered' nominees," November 26, 2013
  7. Obama nominees by Presidency and Congress, "111th Congress," accessed December 12, 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 Washington Post, "Senate GOP blocks Mel Watt nomination," October 31, 2013
  9. USA Today, "Reid says he will try again to push Watt nomination," October 31, 2013
  10. Politico, "Republicans block third judicial appointee," November 18, 2013
  11. Wall Street Journal, "Behind the Filibuster Flurry," December 11, 2013
  12. U.S. Senate, "Glossary," accessed November 20, 2013
  13. Politico, "Chuck Grassley puts hold on DHS nominee," November 20, 2013
  14. Washington Post, "Nominees Fight Looks Unlikely to Hold Up Yellen," November 5, 2013
  15. Capital, "Gillibrand puts a hold on a Navy nominee after 'shocking' answers on assault," October 31, 2013
  16. Washington Post, "Sen. Rand Paul will block Yellen's nomination," October 30, 2013
  17. Wall Street Journal, "Sen. Cruz Places Hold on Obama Nominee," October 17, 2013
  18. Bloomberg, "Cruz Says He’s Lifting Hold on Obama FCC Nominee Wheeler," October 29, 2013
  19. New York Times, "Republican Threatens to Block Pentagon and C.I.A. Nominees," February 10, 2013
  20. U.S. Senate, "Glossary," accessed November 20, 2013
  21. U.S. Senate, "Glossary," accessed December 12, 2013
  22. CNN "Rand Paul says he's heard from White House after filibuster," March 7, 2013
  23. ABC News, "Rand Paul Wins Applause From GOP and Liberals," March 7, 2013
  24. CNN, "Senate pulls an all-nighter, approves federal appeals court nominee," December 12, 2013