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Senate

A Washington Rarity Reappears: The Unanimous Senate Confirmation Vote


Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, right, shakes hands with Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), at the end of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, right, shakes hands with Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), at the end of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill

Who says the Senate is a gridlocked mess? Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx garnered the support of all 100 U.S. senators today to become the next secretary of transportation, the first such unanimous vote for a Cabinet secretary in more than two years. The vote could be considered even more remarkable, given that Foxx counts his new boss, President Barack Obama, as a personal friend. Foxx is expected to be sworn into office next week.

The Senate nearly notched a second moment of consensus with the approval this week of Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker as Commerce Secretary when she sailed through on a 97-1 vote. The support for Foxx and Pritzker among Republican senators occurs at a touchy time for the minority party, which has been accused of obstructionism. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), threatened “to force a change in filibuster rules that protect the minority unless Republicans ease their frequent opposition,” the New York Times reported earlier this week.

After Pritzker’s confirmation vote, a spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tweeted that every one of Obama’s cabinet nominees brought to the Senate had been approved. On Thursday the spokesman, Don Stewart, again noted the 100-0 vote with the sarcastic hashtag #Obstruction, pushing back against the notion that Republicans routinely block the president’s picks. Two  Obama nominees still await a vote: Gina McCarthy, tapped to run the Environmental Protection Agency, and Thomas Perez, the pick to be secretary of labor.

Senate votes of 100-0 for Cabinet nominees are rare but not extraordinarily so. Leon Panetta was installed as secretary of defense in May 2011 on a 100-0 vote—a full decade after the last three such votes, which came during the George W. Bush administration, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Bachman is an associate editor for Businessweek.com.

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