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Obama warns GOP on blocked nominations

WASHINGTON (MCT) — Unhappy with Senate Republicans for blocking his nominations, President Barack Obama warned Tuesday that he would use a procedural tactic to bypass lawmakers unless the Senate moved to confirm government appointees more swiftly.

The president, making a surprise appearance in the White House press room, said he had raised his concerns earlier in the day in a private meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, and that he would use so-called "recess appointments" unless he got more cooperation. A recess appointment would enable Obama to put a nominee in office temporarily without Senate consent, with the appointments lasting through 2011.

Though he did not mention him by name, Obama singled out Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., for holding up dozens of appointments over a disagreement involving approval for an Air Force refueling plane and an anti-terrorism center.

"One senator, as you all are aware, had put a hold on every single nominee that we had put forward due to a dispute over a couple of earmarks in his state," Obama said. "In our meeting, I asked the congressional leadership to put a stop to these holds in which nominees for critical jobs are denied a vote for months."

Shelby's office said this week that he would set aside his "hold" on all but three nominees: two Air Force officials and an undersecretary of defense.

The senator had held up the nominations "to get the White House's attention on two issues that are critical to our national security. ... With that accomplished, Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees," read a prepared statement put out by Shelby's office.

Compounding the president's troubles, the Senate on Tuesday blocked confirmation of Craig Becker for a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. The vote was 52-33, shy of the 60 votes needed to end debate and proceed with a confirmation vote.

Becker, an attorney with ties to organized labor, was opposed by Republicans and two conservative Democrats worried that he would use his seat on the board to advance the interests of the labor movement.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, issued a statement urging the White House not to use the recess appointment power as a means to circumvent Congress and to install Becker on the labor board.

Democrats contend that the opposition to Obama's appointees reflects a calculated attempt to hamstring the White House.