The Senate Committee on Nominations proceeded Wednesday with a confirmation hearing despite a court order that states the advice and consent process can’t begin without Gov. Roy Cooper first formally submitting his nominees to the Senate president.
Cooper has not formally submitted the names of his cabinet appointees and his office has said he will not do so until the March 7 trial in his lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the hearings. The law states that he has until May 15 to submit his appointees.
Larry Hall, secretary of veterans and military affairs, did not show up for the hearing Wednesday and Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland) argued about whether he had been formally nominated already.
Meredith, the Senate Majority Whip and co-chair of the Nominations Committee said Hall was named secretary on Jan. 13, resigned from his position with the General Assembly on Jan.16 and has been serving in the position ever since.
He added that in his opinion, he didn’t think anyone could say with a straight face that Hall hadn’t already been nominated.
The six-page order from the three-judge panel, however, acknowledges that Cooper has not made the formal nominations to the Senate president to trigger the advice and consent process.
“The Advice and Consent Amendment require the Governor to begin the process by first notifying the Senate of the nominee, and the Senate cannot begin the advice and consent process until the Governor submits a nominee,” the document states.
Yesterday, Cooper wrote the chairman of the Nominations Committee, Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Bladen, Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender) informing him that moving forward with the confirmation hearings violates the court order.
The court denied Cooper’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the hearings, but it did so based on the fact that Cooper had not yet formally submitted his nominees to the Senate, the letter states.
“The Court will decide whether or not the legislature’s actions are constitutional,” said Cooper’s spokesman Ford Porter in a press release yesterday. “Until then, Governor Cooper hopes Senate Republicans will put aside the political theater and work to find common ground on issues that matter to North Carolinians like raising teacher pay, helping communities recover from Hurricane Matthew and repealing HB 2.”
Meredith said at the hearing Wednesday that the Senate has tried to afford Hall every opportunity to show up for the hearing, and will give him one more chance to show up tomorrow.
“As we have said all along, the purpose of the confirmation hearing is to determine whether Gov. Cooper’s cabinet secretaries are capable, qualified and without conflicts of interest and willing to follow the laws of our state and our nation,” he said. “By disrespecting this process, Secretary Hall is openly defying a law that has been backed by the courts and is plainly allowed in the constitution.”
He added that Hall is failing the “obey the law” portion of the criteria the Senate will use to confirm Cooper’s nominees, and they will consider this as they decide whether to move his nomination forward.
“If he does not [show up tomorrow], he should bear in mind there are consequences when state officials refuse to follow the law,” Meredith said.