Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include a statement from offices of the Governor and Senate President.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney has pulled two of Gov. Phil Murphy’s cabinet nominations from their agenda tomorrow. This story was first reported by InsiderNJ.
Lamont Repollet, the nominee for Commissioner of Education, and Zakiya Smith Ellis, who is Murphy’s pick, were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and had been placed on the agenda for a vote of the full Senate for Thursday’s session.
“The Senate President has unilaterally decided to hold up the confirmations of two high-qualified Cabinet nominees, despite overwhelming support from the Senate Judiciary Committee. There’s no good reason why he’s standing in the way of their confirmations,” said Mahen Gunaratna, a spokesman for Murphy.
A Senate source said the two nominees are being held because they didn’t demonstrate the commitment Senators want to hear on school funding and higher education affordability issues. The Senate views Murphy’s plan to fix the school funding formula within the next 6-8 months as too long a window.
While stressing that Repollet and Ellis are qualified, the source suggested that there is a lack of confidence in Murphy’s willingness to address problems from Senate Democrats.
But an ally of the Governor questioned whether the Senate leadership utilized the same criteria when confirming Gov. Chris Christie’s cabinet nominees over the last eight years.
“The Senate President has concerns about the lack of responsiveness by the administration on the signature issues of school funding and college affordability. These top officials in the Murphy administration are responsible for adopting the reforms needed to provide full and fair funding for New Jersey’s schools and for following through on the bills to help make college more affordable,” said Richard McGrath, a spokesman for Sweeney. “We haven’t seen or heard the level of willingness needed to make progress on these major priorities. We have worked hard on these policies and we can’t allow the opportunity to put them in place to be lost or delayed by inaction.”