Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 5, 2009
By: Hilzoy

Senate: Stop It.

Via TPM, Bloomberg:

"President Barack Obama's economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate's delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Without Senate confirmation, the two economists are barred from advising the president as the administration tackles the worst financial crisis in 70 years and tries to advance the spending plan Obama submitted to Congress last week.

"It's frustrating," said Christina Romer, who heads the three-member CEA. "These are hard economic times and we desperately want to get them through the Senate and definitely on the job."

"They are both superb economists," she said. "I can't imagine what the holdup is.""

Here's her answer:

"A Senate Democratic aide said Republicans had relayed some concerns about the nominations that the administration and party lawmakers are working to address. Under Senate rules, any senator can block consideration of a nominee.

"There are some objections on the Republican side that we are trying to deal with," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid."

As Josh said: Please Grow Up.

Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Menendez and other anonymous Senators have blocked two of Obama's science advisors. This isn't just bad for science, it's bad for the economic stimulus package, which contains a lot of science funding:

"The holdup could slow timely science and environmental policy work between Congress and the administration, particularly the spending of roughly $21.5 billion dedicated to science in the economic recovery package."

I can see the argument for allowing filibusters. I can see allowing individual Senators to hold a nomination up for a day or two, to make sure that they have time to present any concerns they have about a nominee to their colleagues. But there is no justification at all for allowing one Senator to hold nominations up indefinitely.

This is a rule that should exist, if at all, only in a Senate made up entirely of serious people with a genuine sense of responsibility -- people who would not put holds on science advisors "to get Senate leaders' attention for a matter related to Cuba." Since we obviously do not have that Senate, this rule should be scrapped, and these nominees should be brought up for votes immediately.

Hilzoy 11:22 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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'Hold' blocks the Senate from considering the bill or appointment by unanimous consent. You can still consider the appointment despite the hold but then the Senator who was putting the hold can filibuster. Even if there are enough votes to break filibuster, it takes a long time (several days). Usually Majority Leader won't take that route unless the matter is crucial.

Posted by: LB on March 5, 2009 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

"... to get Senate leaders' attention for a matter related to Cuba."

Good freakin' God, it's a Democrat, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, pulling that nonsense.

What on earth could be so important and pressing about Cuba? American policy towards Cuba hasn't moved one inch in nearly 50 years. Nothing important has happened with respect to Cuba since the Missile Crisis in 1962.

Posted by: nemo on March 6, 2009 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

What are elected public officials doing exercising anonymity when blocking senate business. Without pointing to directly related reasons for the hold up they should be fined and forced to release the holds. The senate is no place for babies to throw tantrums...not on tax payers dollar.

And notice how it's always republicans whose only go seems to be to make sure they block progress whenever it comes from the other party. What good are they...for the country or any thing else??

Posted by: joey on March 6, 2009 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Are you sure it's a dem...that would be a first? Is Mendez a DINO or what because this is a republican tactic for sure.

Posted by: joey on March 6, 2009 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

"..."There are some objections on the Republican side that we are trying to deal with," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid."

This would indicate it's more than just Mendez.

Posted by: joey on March 6, 2009 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

"Without Senate confirmation, the two economists are barred from advising the president"
WTF? Barred by what? Who tells the president he can't talk to someone? And aren't all presidential conversations confidential?

Posted by: i can't retire on March 6, 2009 at 4:58 AM | PERMALINK

yeah, I don't understand why someone would be barred from advising the PResident. they can be barred from exercising an official role, or drawing a salary, but if President Obama wants to have me over for coffee and ask my advice about the economy, nothing (except his good sense) is stopping him, right? ans since the President is, by statute, the ultimate decision maker on classification, what's the problem?

Posted by: northzax on March 6, 2009 at 6:43 AM | PERMALINK

I do not see any good reason for this hold rule to exist- period. It is really a ridiculous way to run a democratic process. A country held hostage to one or two spoilers - can't decide whether to laugh or cry.

Posted by: Betty on March 6, 2009 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

Withholding expert advice from a president.

A pretty good plan to ensure failure.

Limbaugh has company in the Senate.

Dang shame they're all willing to let us hang for the sake of their missing-patch.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 6, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

As a New Jersey Democrat and a scientist, I've written Sen. Menendez a letter calling him out for this shameful political ploy. I told him that he is disgracing his office by this type of back room maneuvering. Gov. Corzine would have better served the people of New Jersey by appointing Holt or Pallone to this seat (I didn't make that point to Menendez, however.)

Posted by: seriously on March 6, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that blocking needed advice to the President is not a positive thing, but doesn't the President have a lot of economic advisers as it is? Attention is needed to staffing Geithner's department before he drowns.

Posted by: Mary OK on March 6, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

It's probably Coburn. It makes him think he's really powerful being able to hold up funding with his no vote. He doesn't care what it's about, just the fact that he can stop the process.

He needs a good swift kick in his tight arse.

Posted by: Cleo on March 6, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Temporary anonymous holds would be okay. If we're going to have indefinite holds, at the very least they should not be anonymous. Elected officials have to be accountable for their actions. Ordinary voters have secret ballots to be protected from coercion by those who already have power. But those who are in power do not have the right to secrecy. In a representative government, the officials are supposed to be subject to coercion from their constituents. Of course, there is the potential problem of officials who govern solely based on polls ("your representative owes you not only his industry but also his judgment"), but I find it hard to believe the anonymous holders on the right are doing so out of some high-minded principles.

Posted by: Jurgan on March 6, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK



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