Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 9, 2010

JON KYL'S DANGEROUS PRIORITIES.... President Obama has nominated a variety of well-qualified officials to fill key posts in the Treasury Department, including positions with jurisdiction over tax policy and international finance. Their nominations would be approved if the Senate were allowed to vote on them.

But that's not happening, because Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) isn't satisfied with -- get this -- enforcement of prohibitions on internet gambling. Kyl wanted enforcement in January, the administration said June, so Kyl effectively responded, "No Treasury Department officials for you."

Matt Yglesias summarized this nicely.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is your modern United States Senate. If there's some random crap that nobody cares about, it just takes one Senator with a bee in his bonnet to ruin everything for everyone who would like to live in a country with a properly administered government. There are six Treasury nominees still awaiting action being held up by Kyl.

You might think it would be a good idea to have an Under Secretary for International Affairs. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Under Secretary for Domestic Finance. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Assistant Secretary for International Economics and Development. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy. Kyl disagrees.

This kind of thing really has to stop, it's a ludicrous way to run a country. Amidst a global economic meltdown, we can't get confirmation for the international economics officials. Not because the Senate has a problem with them, but because one guy isn't happy with the delay of some internet gambling regulations.

Look, I realize that the occasional senator is going to play petty and unnecessary games from time to time. But Obama has been in office for nearly a year. We're struggling to overcome a global financial crisis. Key offices relating to the economy are vacant because Jon Kyl is pouting over a six-month delay in implementing regulations on internet gambling. There's simply no way to defend this.

As former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker recently put it, "How can we run a government in the middle of a financial crisis without doing the ordinary, garden-variety administrative work of filling the relevant agencies?"

Senate Republicans are acting like children playing with matches. Jon Kyl isn't some random backbencher, he's the #2 Republican in the chamber. Presumably, he's in a position to realize the adverse consequences -- for the government, for the administration, for the entire country -- of his indefensible obstructionism.

A mature, functioning democracy simply can't operate this way and expect to thrive. Kyl, a genuinely painful buffoon, believes Republicans are capable of leading and handling their responsibilities. He can prove it by starting to act like a grown-up for a change.

Steve Benen 9:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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"He can prove it by starting to act like a grown-up for a change."

You statements are valid, as usual. But, I just don't understand why you continue to try to ascribe anything reasonable in their actions.

Republican today is about being anti-Democrat. There is no reason, logic, or thought to it. There are no principles behind it. They are against - and DAMN proud of it.

Sarah Palin is a perfect example. She is nobody in a skirt, but our side doesn't like her - so she's their hero.

Posted by: Mark-NC on January 9, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Don't the republicans have an image problem with gambling ? After all weren't they responsible for forcing Jack Abramoff to play the contributions from one source against the exact same contributions from an opponent source ? Doesn't the idea of bringing poor manipulated Jack Abramoff up , even if by inference , lead directly to thoughts of the long sordid history of republican double dealing , back stabbing and outright fraud regarding their own playmates ?

Posted by: FRP on January 9, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Another example of "well, if we can't play by my rules, I'm taking my football and you can't play".

Posted by: ComradeAnon on January 9, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Recent behavior by our current batch of Republican senators seems on par with thugs running an extortion racket! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 9, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, as usual, the media look the other way when Republicans behave badly.

Imagine if Democrats routinely stonewalled Bush's nominations like this. Every news show would have a counter at the bottom of the screen showing the number of days days elapsed. Cokie's eyes would roll out of their sockets at the incivility. But as usual, IOKIYAR.

Posted by: worcestergirl on January 9, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Normally, I'd say this is what Republicans call a "twofer".

But since I'm highly suspicious of any Republican caring about gambling regulation (unless the new "regs" are really deregulatory in nature), I'd say this is just flimsy cover for their overall plan of a Weimar strategy. Piss in the pot, throw sand in the gears, etc. in order to make fixing the problems they themselves created impossible. That was just step 1 which occurred as Steve said, 11 months ago. Step 2 has also already been implemented- whip up public (or the appearance of public sentiment) against Obama. See Parties,TEA. Step 3, sabotage by any means necessary any successes the Administration might have. See,Reform, Healthcare.

Other steps are forth coming, but the end goal is to create conditions so bad the electorate "punishes" Democrats and turns to the Republicans.

Posted by: oh my on January 9, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

This was on the front page of the NYT, the WaPo, and was the lead on the network news last night.

Oh, wait. I must live in alternate universe.

In this one, the breaking news was Obama's incompetence, Steele's book, and how Republicans Kept us Safe for 8 years. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 9, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I don't recall anything in the Constitution requiring the advice and consent of every single Senator for confirmations.

Yes, Kyle is being a immature ass, but surely there are other people in positions of authority in the Senate who are letting him get away with it.

The 'courtesy' of allowing each Senator to hold these nominations is clearly being abused, and should be revoked. Even the most polite and collegial person can only be expected to be 'courteous' so long when faced with such exploitation of the privilege.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 9, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

If only the Obama administration would learn to compromise, to extend a hand across the aisle, in the true spirit of bipartisanship . . .

It's like Samuel Johnson said of pornography: once a man sets his mind to it, he can write it endlessly--write like David Broder, I mean.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on January 9, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans' strategy is simple: do all you can to prevent Obama from governing effectively. Then run against him by screaming that he's not governing effectively. But it's not because they're like children -- their corporate masters want government, the only check on their power, to be rendered totally impotent. Unless Obama takes a cue from FDR and calls them out publicly, loudly and often, he'll get more of the same. One reason Kyl and his ilk get away with this is that the public doesn't know it's happening. If I didn't read Washington Monthly, I wouldn't know, either.

Posted by: dalloway on January 9, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican Party is one step short of, (and perhaps not even that) becoming a domestic terrorist organization. They work from within to undermine the country at every turn, putting Party before Country at each step. Their intention of keeping the country poor, angry, and fearful is a feature, not a bug. And if the press accounts are true, this is the way to political success for them. I fear for the Republic when 40% of Congress is determined to divide and ruin the country during a time of war. It's not just scandalous, it's nearly treason.

Posted by: Eclectic on January 9, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

my question is, if this IS a democracy, why IS one ma allowed to stop it?

Posted by: Elizabeth on January 9, 2010 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

I think you have to entertain the likelihood that the intent of the senate republicans (probably the house as well) is to bring this government down, not to see that it functions.

Posted by: rbe1 on January 9, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

It makes the Republicans look tough and the Democrats looks weak. Sounds like a winner for the Repubs all around.

Posted by: martin on January 9, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Kyl's refusal to do his job is a really good reason why the American people should demand an amendment to the U.S. constitution to remove Senators that are derelict in their duty.

That republicans even think they are qualified to lead is one of the biggest jokes given that they have yet to even be productive.

Posted by: Silver Owl on January 9, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Ok, so why doesn't the senate remove this... or at least put a 30 day limit on a single senators power to withhold confirmation?

Too accustomed to their power? Yup.

Posted by: Buford on January 9, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Dittoheads and Villagers will just say, this shows that Obama isn't trying hard enough to be bipartisan. Most important: we need to make sure enough voters realize what Kyle and his crew are like. It's a tall order.

Posted by: neil b. on January 9, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

"IMMATURE ASSES" Between TX and SC it not likely that the Repugs will run out of obstructionists. Repugs, a proud party indeed.

Posted by: Ted76 on January 9, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

The government is not working for the American public. The majority we put in a position of power is doing nothing to fix the structural problems that are inherent with the system. What is the point of participating in the charade of democracy any longer? Why vote?

Yes, I hate the Thug party. But what gives me any reason to support the dems anymore? If they can't repair the system with the votes they have now, then the system can't be repaired.

Posted by: candideinnc on January 9, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

"A mature, function democracy simply can't operate this way and expect to thrive."

What in the past 40+ years would give you any, and I mean any, idea that we live in a mature, functional democracy?
We're an armed High School with nuclear missiles. Any one wonder why the rest of the world is scared to death of us?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 9, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Simple solution: legalize internet gambling.

Posted by: whatever dogg on January 9, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans believe government is the problem and not the answer. Republicans are not interested in governing. If they cannot prevent good government by electing an idiot like Bush, they will try to hamstring capable Dems.

Posted by: bakho on January 9, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not longer angry at Republicans for this. I'm now angry at Democrats for doing absolutely nothing about it. This is on Democrats.

Posted by: inkadu on January 9, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

It sure is fun belly-aching about this. Belly-aching also accomplishes exactly nothing.

inkadu is right. If Dems care about this, they'll make it an issue - constantly - on the talk shows, the campaign trail, wherever anyone will listen. Republicans obstructing the smooth functioning of government should be an embarrassment for them, and a winning issue for Democrats. If Democrats only feel like belly-aching, not turning this into an embarrassment for Republicans, it would be a better idea to just shut up.

Posted by: Basilisc on January 9, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not longer angry at Republicans for this. I'm now angry at Democrats for doing absolutely nothing about it. This is on Democrats.

This. If Harry Reid really sees himself as helpless in the face of an oppositional senator holding his breath until he turns blue, he needs to take a seat on the bench and give his job to someone who will use the gavel and parliamentarian procedure to the Dems' advantage.

Posted by: dr. bloor on January 9, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Why does this "hold" bullshit exist in the first place? What possible good does it accomplish to give one Senator the power to thwart the will of, conceivably, 99 others?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on January 9, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Presumably, he's in a position to realize the adverse consequences -- for the government, for the administration, for the entire country -- of his indefensible obstructionism."

I'm sure Sen. Kyl DOES realize it - I'm also sure that he just doesn't give a sh*t.

Posted by: Jay C on January 9, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

These rants about Senate holds would ring less hypocritical if the exact process had not been used so profligately by the Democratic leadership during the Bush administration. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and you don't like it. Objection noted. Carry on.

Posted by: Popeye on January 9, 2010 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Never, ever, forget how deeply invested Republicans are in making government -- from federal agencies down to local zoning authorities -- weak and dysfunctional. Now that Democrats are in charge, the GOP's anti-government stance is not just a matter of principle, but of electoral strategy.

Posted by: allbetsareoff on January 9, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

You really think the finance industry wants Treasury's oversight? Perhaps Kyl is just doing the bidding of his masters on Wall Street.

Posted by: idlemind on January 9, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans can only do this because Senate Democrats and Obama let them get away with it. The Republicans, in this situation, would have ads on the air explaining what Kyl is doing and saying "call Sen. Kyl and tell him to stop being such a big obstructionist baby", and they'd demand that journalists confront Kyl on the issue, accusing them of bias if they didn't. But they don't.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 9, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

To be surprised by the republicans behavior, one must believe they have the well-being of the country at heart. They don't. They are interested only in regaining power and their MO for accomplishing this is to try their best to bring down the Obama administration. They have stated this openly time and time again. Why haven't the Dems made something of it?

Posted by: CDW on January 9, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Its called recess appointments. By the time Congress comes from its never ending vacations, the people will have been in office six months anyway.

Posted by: alinw on January 9, 2010 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Remember when Dodd had that hold on some piece of legislation and Reid ignored it? The whole hold thing is a scam.

Posted by: Dale on January 9, 2010 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

Did anyone make mention of the fact that Arizona has a huge gambling industry? There are numerous indian casinos in Arizona. I am probably just being cynical though. One of our honorable senators would not jeopardize government "efficiency" for a special interest.

Posted by: philfl63 on January 9, 2010 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

If the appointments are so important, how about giving into his demands?

If the hold courtesy cannot be revoked - and it appears that senate will not do that - then he has us over a barrel, does he not?

In such a situation, what else to do but reluctantly give in? Is it really so important to deley the gambling regs another six months?

Posted by: herostratus on January 9, 2010 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, it sure would be great if John McCain were on a news show anytime soon, so his wisdom could be sought about this.

Posted by: Northzax on January 10, 2010 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

To those who ask why not give in on the gambling regulations so that Kyl can have his way.... have you researched those regulations?

The regs are widely accepted to be some of the worst legislation ever written. No one really knows how to interpret them because they are vaguely written, they would cause the banks to massively overblock transactions from many legitimate businesses, and even the WTO is attempting to sanction businesses in totally unrelated industries because of these regulations.

Give in to these regulations if you want but also realize that the movie & music industries, electronic digital storage companies, UPS & Fedex, the Kentucky horse racing industry, and a few others have already felt the impact of this bill. Do your research before saying "give Kyl what he wants". Also research Kyl's history with this legislation. If you had given into Kyl on some of his previous attempts, internet gambling would be a class A felony already, making it a more serious offense in his home state than rape and child pornography.

This man is off his rocker, a disgrace to this country, and a symbol of why so many small government conservatives have so much trouble supporting the Republican party.

Posted by: sdmmkd on January 11, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK



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