This is View from the Hill’s weekly roundup of the most interesting news from Washington, D.C. pertaining to North Carolina and the UNC system.
After nuclear option, Watt’s confirmation expected
On Thursday, the Senate invoked what has been called the nuclear option, where only a simple majority would be required to confirm presidential appointees except for nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the rule change came after there had been consistent blocks to nominations by President Barack Obama.
“It is a troubling trend that Republicans are willing to block executive branch nominees even when they have no objection to the qualifications of the nominee,” said Reid in a statement. “Instead, they block qualified executive branch nominees to circumvent the legislative process.”
One of the nominees who has been blocked was Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., whom Obama appointed to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Watt’s confirmation blocked by Senate Republicans last month, with Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C, being the only Republican to vote in favor.
Burr reminds Democrats of their old position on the nuclear option
While Democratic Senators largely supported the change to Senate rules to expedite the confirmation process, many Republican Senators said the change was a power grab.
“Rather than advance legislation and nominate judges that are capable of receiving bipartisan support in the United States Senate, the President and the Democrat majority want their legislation, their way,” Burr said. “They want to change the Senate rules to pack the courts with judges who agree with them.”
In addition, on his Twitter account, Burr tweeted previous statements from Obama and Vice President Joe Biden that would seem to contradict their current position.
“This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power.”— Richard Burr (
SenatorBurr) <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorBurr/statuses/403626204973891584">November 21, 2013</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>"It is a fundamental power grab by the majority party ... designed to change the reading of the Constitution."</p>— Richard Burr (SenatorBurr) November 21, 2013
“[rules change] undermine the protections of the minority point of view in the heat of majority excess.”— Richard Burr (
SenatorBurr) <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorBurr/statuses/403631798418042880">November 21, 2013</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>Sorry – the last three tweets needed attribution. All Joe Biden, 2005.</p>— Richard Burr (SenatorBurr) November 21, 2013
“In reality, this is not about judges… This is, plainly and simply, a power grab…” – Senator Obama, 2005 http://t.co/noEnOTBs2s— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) November 22, 2013
Pittenger criticizes Affordable Care Act and Promotes Infrastructure
This week, Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., joined Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C, in a Google hangout with constituents to hear problems with the Affordable Care Act.
The hangout featured constituents discussing issues with Affordable Care Act involving small business and cancellation of health care plans.
Similarly, Pittenger took part in a hearing for the House Oversights and Government Reform Committee in Gastonia.
“These are real people with real stories of suffering caused by a misguided law sold to the American people as a panacea.” said Pittenger in a press statement.
But Pittenger was also praised on Friday by Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., for being first Republican co-sponsor of the Partnership to Build America Act.
Special #ff to
RepPittenger</a> - first Republican cosponsor of our infrastructure bill <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=#buildamerica2084&src=hash">#buildamerica2084</a> <a href="http://t.co/qgABtUspzK">http://t.co/qgABtUspzK</a></p>— Rep. John Delaney (RepJohnDelaney) November 22, 2013
The act would create a $50 infrastructure fund that could be capitalized to $750 billion and will capitalized by the sale of 50-year bonds.
The fund would then provide loans or loan guarantees to states and municipalities for public infrastructure projects.
Members of Congress praise Dean Smith for Medal of Freedom
Members of Congress from North Carolina used the occasion of former UNC head basketball coach Dean Smith’s receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to praise his life.
“Throughout his life, Coach Smith has worked humbly yet tirelessly to address many of our country’s most pressing issues, from ending segregation in college sports and in our college town to advancing the cause of equal rights and justice for all Americans,” said Rep. David Price, D-N.C., in a statement
Similarly, Sen. Kay Hagan released a video statement praising Smith’s work on Civil Rights.
“Even as a high school athlete, Dean Smith lobbied for the desegregation of his team,” Hagan said. “And as coach at Chapel Hill, he brought the first scholarship African American player to his team, the future NBA All-Star Charlie Scott.”
Smith was unable to attend the event at the White House due to his health, but his wife, Dr. Linnea Smith, accepted the award for him, and was joined by coaches Roy Williams and Bill Guthridge.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.