The Senate has confirmed five new commissioners for the Federal Election Commission, ending a six-month [artisan standoff between the White House and Senate Democrats and putting the campaign watchdog back in business.
The new Democratic commissioners in the evenly divided, six-memberr panel are Steve Walther and Cynthia Bauerly They will join sitting Ellen Weintraub. The new Republican commissioners are Matt Peterson, Don McGahn and Caroline Hunter.
“Confirming these nominations tonight will help restore the American people’s faith that campaign finance laws will be enforced during this presidential election," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a statement. "We are also bringing greater transparency to our system of financing elections by ensuring new bundling rules will finally move forward. I am proud to have advanced Steven Walther and Cynthia Bauerly, two exceptional Democratic nominees, and am extremely pleased they have finally been confirmed."
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the delay in naming new commissioners was due to "Democrat obstruction," and he called the confirmations "long overdue."
"A fully functioning, bipartisan FEC is long overdue," McConnel said in his own statement. "I’m glad that Democrat obstruction on nominees is over so the FEC can now resume its critical role of enforcing election laws and ensuring that this election season is fair and equitable to all who are involved.”
The FEC fight began last year when Reid and the Senate Democrats refused to bring up the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Dept. official who had been recess appointed by President Bush to the commission.
The Democrats' refusal to move on von Spakovsky angered the White House and Senate Republicans, who in turn, refused to allow the approval of any Democratic nominees for the commisson. The standoff continued for months and brought the FEC's work to a standstill since only two commissioners were left in office. The FEC needs four commissioners to have a quorum.
The FEC's shutdown prevented new campaign-finance investigations from being initiated, but it also delayed commission action on whether Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) violated federal law by first indicating he would take matching funds for his primary race - he used the promise of those funds to obtain a bank loan - only to back out later when he became the frontrunner in the GOP presidential race. The Democratic National Committee has filed a lawsuit against the FEC in a bid to force the commission to investigate McCain's move.