WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid into Republicans this morning, saying the Senate is unable to fill key military and intelligence posts because GOP senators continue to delay votes.
“Senate Republicans are simply so opposed to everything — absolutely everything — that they even oppose putting people in some of the most important positions in our government," Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor.
“This irresponsible partisanship does not merely poison our political system — it endangers our national security," he said.
A spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had no immediate comment.
Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate has been unable to act on four nominees to fill posts in the Department of Defense, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the International Conference on Disarmament. Included on a list are the intelligence chiefs for the State and Homeland Security departments, and the No. 3 leader at the Pentagon.
Newsweek reported last week on Democratic complaints that Caryn Wagner, in line to become intelligence head at the Department of Homeland Security, and Philip Goldberg, nominated to fill a corresponding post at the State Department, were being secretly blocked by Republicans.
“Unfortunately, these are not isolated cases," Reid said. "They are part of an endless and reckless pattern."
The speech was part of a broader message that Senate Democrats sought to deliver. They distributed a sheet calling attention to what they said were GOP efforts to delay defense and war spending bills last year, and delays to the confirmations of Army Secretary John McHugh and Gen. Stanley McChrystal to head U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Reid's speech comes almost a week after President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech warned that the partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill was "sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government."
"Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can," Obama said. "The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators."
Reid's comments today suggested little was changing to the satisfaction of Democrats looking to fill jobs in the Obama administration.
In his speech, Reid said he was trying to arrange votes today for Martha Johnson to head the General Services Administration, and for Patricia Smith, Obama's nominee to become Labor Department solicitor. Both had run into opposition. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and some other Republicans are opposing Smith. Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., blocked Johnson because of a dispute between the Missouri delegation and GSA over a property in Kansas City.
"It's hard to comprehend the wasted time and all the staff and senators' time that could be put to better use," Reid said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.