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Tilting at Windmills

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October 29, 2009

REID BLASTS UNPRECEDENTED OBSTRUCTIONISM.... Maybe this will help bring some much-needed attention to the story.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) excoriated Republicans on Thursday for stalling more than 200 executive and judicial nominees that in some cases have been lingering on the executive calendar for months.

"Senate Republicans are simply so opposed to everything, absolutely everything, that they even oppose putting people in some of the most important positions in our government," Reid said in a floor statement.

In the midst of the H1N1 flu outbreak, Republicans put a hold on President Obama's surgeon general nominee. The federal courts are backlogged, but Republicans are blocking votes on President Obama's judicial nominees. The White House has sent qualified people to the Hill to lead the Office of Legal Counsel, head the General Services Administration, and a variety of diplomatic posts, but Republicans have put holds on all of them, too.

This just isn't normal. Indeed, the Senate isn't supposed to function this way -- and it never has functioned this way. It's obstructionism on a scale without precedent.

Keep in mind, we're not talking about regular ol' opposition to White House nominees. If GOP senators wanted to reflexively oppose, en masse, every nominee the administration to the Hill, that would be fine. In fact, it'd be a huge improvement over the status quo.

Instead, Republican senators simply don't want these nominees to get a vote at all. The officials wait in limbo for months -- some have had their lives put on hold since March, waiting for a simple up-or-down vote -- and government posts that need to be filled remain empty while the 40-seat minority dithers.

It's an embarrassment to the institution.

Steve Benen 2:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

What's really embarrassing is that Harry Reid is honoring these holds, usually from a single Senator. He is not required to do so, and in fact has occasionally failed to do so (most notably when Dodd put a hold on the Patriot Act changes last year). If he wants this to move forward, he can simply ignore the holds and bring these to a vote.

He also could, and should, be exposing precisely which Senator's are blocking which votes.

Posted by: PaulB on October 29, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

What's really embarrassing is that Harry Reid is honoring these holds, usually from a single Senator. He is not required to do so, and in fact has occasionally failed to do so (most notably when Dodd put a hold on the Patriot Act changes last year). If he wants this to move forward, he can simply ignore the holds and bring these to a vote.********

Is this actually true, or would there somehow be hell to pay?

Posted by: In what respect , Charlie? on October 29, 2009 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

There is no longer any embarrassment to "the institution." The institution it self is an embarrassment to the idea of democracy -- or even the idea of decency.

This is a clown car that brings nothing but misery to the majority of the american public on a daily basis, while it takes in hand-over-fist thousands and thousands of dollars from corporations for doing it.

God damn it! More than half of the senate belongs in prison...if this were a decent society...

Posted by: neill on October 29, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it at least worth pointing out that the only reason that Republicans get away with this stuff is because Reid lets them? Shouldn't that merit a mention in this story?

Posted by: Rian Mueller on October 29, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

So at what point does the abuse of parliamentary procedure result in procedural reform? Since appealing to the GOP's respect for the institution of the Senate, its sense of fair play, or even shame, is clearly futile.

Posted by: Jon on October 29, 2009 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

A question for the legal / senate rules brainiacs out there: how can the filibuster be abolished? The Dems, while in the minority, used it (although far, far less than the Republic Party does today); I have always thought it was defended by those who believe they will always be in the minority.

Or, if not ablished, how can the rules be changed so that there is more transparency as to who is putting on holds, etc.?

Posted by: Michael Carpet on October 29, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

er, abOlished ...

Posted by: Michael Carpet on October 29, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

How can the filibuster be abolished? Two words -- "nuclear option." Yep the Republicans came up with the idea that might save us all from the Republican minority.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 29, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's not an embarrassment if all you want to do is ensure that the "other side" fails, and you don't really care about governing.

Posted by: Kris on October 29, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

The filibuster is a senate rule that I believe is reaffirmed at the start of every session in the organizing resolution. The organizing resolution sets the rules for the following session and only requires a majority to pass. If the majority Democrats really wanted to ditch the filibuster they could get rid of it by not including it in the organizing resolution at the start of the next session.

I think.

Posted by: Rian Mueller on October 29, 2009 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure most of you heard these comments by Edward Brooke yesterday, after he received the Congressional Gold Medal:

WASHINGTON - For more than an hour yesterday, Washington’s most powerful politicians lauded former Massachusetts senator Edward W. Brooke, praising the 90-year-old Republican for breaking down partisan divisions and racial barriers.
And Brooke, while soft-spoken and respectful, had a stern response: Why can’t you people do the same?
“We’ve got to get together,’’ Brooke pleaded, turning to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell - whom Brooke companionably called “Mitch’’ - during a Capitol ceremony to award Brooke the Congressional Gold Medal. “It’s time for politics to be put aside on the backburner,’’ Brooke chided.

The problem, of course, is that McConnell and his ilk are incapable of shame, and incapable of learning. They undoubtedly dismissed Brooke's wisdom as the blathering of an old man who doesn't understand how Washington "works" anymore.

Posted by: dr. bloor on October 29, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

It should also be pointed out that the Democrats do not want to abolish the filibuster, because they have an interest in using it when they are in the minority. Not too long ago this was a subject of debate when the Republicans were talking about the "nuclear option", to get rid of the filibuster so they could pass Bush's federal court nominees with a simple majority.

I think intellectual consistency should require that we look back on that time when the nuclear option was being discussed and ask ourselves if we wanted to get rid of the filibuster then as well as now.

Posted by: Rian Mueller on October 29, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Can anyone say recess appointments?

Posted by: surfk9 on October 29, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

So Bush can recess-appoint John Bolton even though Republican Senators objected to his appointment (remember Sen. Voinovich bawling his eyes out) ?

I don't understand why Obama didn't recess-appoint the hell out of August. Beck & Lieberman will yell 'czars' anyway, so how could it have hurt?

Posted by: Ohioan on October 29, 2009 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that it's possible the Democrats like having the Republicans to blame for at least some of this obstruction.

For example, on the health care bill it sure seems like some members of the Dem caucus (Bayh, Conrad, Lieberman, Lincoln and Nelson) don't really want to pass a good bill if it will be painful for the insurance industry. So, having the Senate set-up that activists can blame Republicans is OK for the Dem caucus.

If some judges don't get approved, we'll that's just the price of Democratic Senators evading responsibility.

BTW, I suspect the activists who are working at Dem affiliated non-profits are mostly enabling.

If the progressive activists started to run progressive challengers to Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln in the general election it would help the Democrats see that they need to show more progress.

But if the activists aren't annoyed enough to be organizing against Bayh and Lincoln and they continue to support Democrats, why should the Senate Dems change the status quo?

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on October 29, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Steve on this one, and in fact I think that Obama and Reid should be considerably more aggressive on nominations:

http://plainblogaboutpolitics.blogspot.com/2009/10/nominations.html

Posted by: Jonathan Bernstein on October 29, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Rian Mueller, I suspect progressive activists are frustrated that the GOP can use the filibuster liberally and the media doesn't even talk about it. And the Democrats get hammered in the media for merely having activists discuss the possibility of using one filibuster.

If Democrats aren't going to use the filibuster to block outrageous Right Wing nominees and bills, then it seems like an asymmetrical weapon.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on October 29, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that the Democratic majority ought to be able to change the rules that permit the minority party to hold Executive branch appointments hostage. The political class, especially conservative Republicans who don't really accept our form of government, are doing this because the rules permit them to do it. The obvious solution is to change the rules.

Posted by: Bob C on October 29, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Reid needs to just implement the nuclear option and be done with it. Filibuster is antiquated. Let majority rule. Change the minimum hours of debating time to 10 hours instead of 30.

This bullsh-t just has to stop now.

Posted by: Existenz on October 29, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

There is a festering, puss-filled boil coming to a head beneath the Capitol dome.

Too bad we don't have a Surgeon General to lance it. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 29, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with others.

Reid needs to just ignore these holds. What's the point of holds anyway?

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on October 29, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

I seem to recall that Matthew Yglesias had a good set of posts on why Democrats should support abolition of the filibuster, back in the days of the Nuclear Option. Does anyone have a link?

Posted by: Michael Carpet on October 29, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Reid's and Schumer's research team should put together lists of everyone the Republicans blocked (judges and otherwise) when Clinton was President; *and* everyone the Democrats blocked when Bush was President (which will be a shorter list).

They should reaffirm the argument that it is OK in rare circumstances for the minority to lay it all on the line, and go to the mat with a principled objection. But the number should show that the Republicans do it out of routine, and the Democrats do it seldom.

By coming clean about any Democrat blocks, and stacking the R's very high next to them, they will disarm the "they all do it" argument.

Posted by: Z. Mulls on October 29, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Institutions can't be embarrassed if the people who compose the institution are incapable of shame.

Posted by: joejoejoe on October 29, 2009 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

So is Reid just gonna whine, or is he actually going to do something about it?

Call me naive, but I highly doubt that a sternly worded speech is gonna change Republican behavior.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on October 29, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK
It seems to me that it's possible the Democrats like having the Republicans to blame for at least some of this obstruction. .... But if the activists aren't annoyed enough to be organizing against Bayh and Lincoln and they continue to support Democrats, why should the Senate Dems change the status quo?

As P.T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute."

It's not at all puzzling why Reid, Obama, and the other Democrats pull this stuff; however, it's beginning to get puzzling why progressives continue to support them.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 29, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Is this actually true, or would there somehow be hell to pay? -In what respect, Charlie?

It's true. Holds, according to senate rules, an "informal practice," and the "Majority Leader need not follow the Senator's wishes." And it is true that Reid ignored a hold from Dodd.

So Reid is ranting, but it is entirely within his power to ignore them. I do at least hope he was looking in a mirror while lodging his complaints.

The 'hold' is nothing more than a cover for cowardice, or what those in club senate call gentlemanly. The fact that Reid upholds those from Republicans while ignoring those from Democrats illustrates just how afraid he is of being called a liberal by FOX News.

Posted by: doubtful on October 29, 2009 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Harry refuses to make the Republicans pay for their gameplaying. It's almost as if he is their secret weapon. He has sixty votes, if he doesn't use them, it's because he doesn't want to.

Posted by: freelunch on October 29, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Embarrassment hell, it's like everything they touch, they turn it to crap. Repubs have abused all of the senate rules completely ignoring the spirit for which they were created.

Dems need to wake up...they should change senate rules while they are in the majority since when in a minority they never abused them anyway..

Holds should be resolved after 2wks. Justify, debate, discuss, then let it go to a vote.

The senate is being changed into the obstructionist club wasting taxpayer dollars rather than getting things done...all due to these "Party First" repubs. Just pathetic. I'm surprised Reid is just now saying something about it when these goobers would put a hold on the janitor if he was a dem appointment nominee. Just pathetic how well they are breaking the government...and being "
allowed" to do it.

Posted by: bjobotts on October 29, 2009 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Get. Rid. Of. The. Fucking. Filibuster.

Posted by: TW Andrews on October 29, 2009 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Any chance this is a trap to push obama towards recess appointments so they can tar him as "Same as Bush"?

Posted by: red on October 29, 2009 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Nuclear option, anyone?

Posted by: bob h on October 30, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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