But After 3-Judge Panel Rules, It’s Not Clear When Process Will Actually Start
A panel of three Superior Court judges ruled Tuesday that the North Carolina Senate can hold confirmation hearings on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s cabinet picks.
House Bill 17, passed late last year by the General Assembly, mandates that all of Cooper’s top agency heads be approved by the Senate. Cooper challenged the law in court, and last week Superior Court judges issued a temporary block of the confirmation process.
But on Tuesday, Superior Court judges Jesse Caldwell, Todd Burke and Jeff Foster ruled Cooper had not shown the block would cause “irreparable harm,” thus the confirmation process can move forward.
Republican legislative leaders maintain the state Constitution gives senators the power of “advice and consent” over Cabinet picks, much as the U.S. Senate confirms a president’s Cabinet choices.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) issued a joint statement Tuesday saying: “It is incredibly encouraging that this court has shown judicial restraint and rejected Gov. Cooper’s extraordinary request to stop the people’s elected representatives from conducting a fair, open and transparent hearing process to determine whether his proposed cabinet secretaries are qualified, without conflicts of interest, and willing to follow the law.”
The Cooper administration says the law hinders the the governor from carrying out core executive duties. Tuesday’s ruling means Senate hearings can proceed – at least, legally.
However, HB 17 indicates the governor begins the process by first notifying the Senate of the nominees. Though Cooper has named eight picks and they are serving in those positions, he has not yet formally submitted those names to the Senate. Some commentators have raised the possibility the governor could hold off on doing so, thus stalling the confirmation process.
The state Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on the constitutionality of the law in March. And the new law itself says the governor has until May 15 to submit the names.