Has President Obama's nomination of Carla Hayden to serve as the nation’s 14th Librarian of Congress hit a roadblock? According to a report on Politico.com (and independently confirmed by PW), an anonymous Republican hold has been placed on Hayden’s nomination, potentially denying her a final confirmation vote.
Though holdups in the Senate have become common in recent years, an anonymous hold this late in the process is a stunning turn of events for Hayden, who sailed through her April 20 Senate hearing and won unanimous approval from the Senate Rules Committee on June 9.
In a statement last month, officials at the American Library Association (which strongly supports Hayden’s nomination) initially said they expected a final confirmation vote to happen quickly. But it now appears that Hayden’s nomination may be more complicated. The hold could delay a final up-or-down vote on Hayden's nomination indefinitely.
Under Senate rules, if the hold is not lifted, a cloture vote is needed to override it (with 60 votes to win)—something that is highly unlikely to happen quickly given all the hoops involved with cloture, and other legislative priorities.
Complicating matters, the Senate is scheduled to adjourn for a summer recess beginning July 18 and is not in session again until September. Political observers told PW that a confirmation vote could become harder to get in the fall, as the election nears.
A highly respected and accomplished librarian, Hayden, currently CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, would be the first woman, and the first African American Librarian of Congress. She would also be the first professional librarian to hold the office in over 60 years.
After the June 9 vote recommending the Senate confirm Hayden, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, said he was confident Hayden would "bring a great background and skill set to the job.”
In a post on the ALA Washington Office's District Dispatch web site, ALA officials urged librarians to contact their legislators and pressure them to bring Hayden's nomination to a vote. Library advocacy group Everylibrary.org also started an online petition. And in a separate statement, ALA president Julie Todaro criticized the the hold.
"The Senate Rules Committee, leading technology and entertainment trade associations, library associations in every state, colleges, universities and respected public interest groups of every political stripe believe Dr. Carla Hayden to be uniquely well-qualified to serve Congress and the nation as the next Librarian of Congress," Todaro said. "Any Senator who disagrees has the right, opportunity and, frankly, the obligation to do that in public and with specificity on the floor of the Senate."
UPDATE: The Washington Post has published an in-depth article suggesting that social conservatives in the Senate are behind the hold. In a separate editorial, the Washington Post editorial board has called for the Senate to give Hayden a vote.
"Public arguments against Ms. Hayden offensively suggest that, apparently because she is an African American woman, she would turn the library into a 'monument to political correctness.' Meanwhile, legislators refuse to vote but offer no arguments at all," the editorial states. "The Senate should give Ms. Hayden the consideration she deserves."
UPDATE: The hold was lifted on July 13, and Carla Hayden was confirmed as the 14th Librarian of Congress by a 74-18 vote.