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Tilting at Windmills

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February 5, 2010

SHELBY'S SHUTDOWN.... Just when it seemed Republican obstructionism couldn't be any more offensive, at least one far-right senator finds a way to kick things up a notch.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put an extraordinary "blanket hold" on at least 70 nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, according to multiple reports this evening. The hold means no nominations can move forward unless Senate Democrats can secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold.

"While holds are frequent," CongressDaily's Dan Friedman and Megan Scully report (sub. req.), "Senate aides said a blanket hold represents a far more aggressive use of the power than is normal."

The Mobile Press-Register picked up the story early this afternoon. The paper confirmed Reid's account of the hold.... Reid aides told CongressDaily the hold extends to "all executive nominations on the Senate calendar."

And why, pray tell, has Shelby decided to hold several dozen administration nominees hostage? It's not about qualifications, ideology, or party -- it's about pork. The conservative Alabama senator wants some defense earmarks for his state, and until he's satisfied, Shelby apparently won't allow the Senate to vote on just about anyone, including nominees ready to fill positions related to national security.

The abuse, the arrogance, the corruption ... it's just breathtaking. Shelby is proving himself to be little more than a petty, greedy thug, undermining our system of government until he's been paid off to his satisfaction.

Josh Marshall added, "This is more like just a stick up. Gimme my money and I'll give you your Senate back! Worse than a squeegee man and not much better than a bank robber, Shelby is shutting down the president's ability to appoint anyone to anything until he gets his way."

What's more, it's additional evidence, as if more was needed, that congressional Republicans are simply out of control. At a time when the nation needs strong institutions, GOP lawmakers have not only gone mad, they're also tearing down governmental touchstones like the United States Senate.

It's inexcusable and unsustainable. Something's gotta give.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (63)

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And the national media reports on this obstructionism begin in 3...2...1...

Oh. Wait. Sorry, I temporarily forgot that Tiger Woods' sex life is more important than the disintegration of our political system.

Posted by: John on February 5, 2010 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

Quick! Issue a press release!

Posted by: walt on February 5, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

How is this behavior not:
ex·tor·tion Pronunciation (k-stôrshn)
1. The act or an instance of extorting.
2. Illegal use of one's official position or powers to obtain property, funds, or patronage.

How can it be legal to put 300 million people at risk with one vote. And how can his vote count as 300m votes. It's an opportunity for the Repubs but I'm sure they'll take the wrong road.

Posted by: Wayne on February 5, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Reid should declare a recess, and President Obama should pounce, appointing all his nominees in one fell swoop. The country can no longer afford this type of obstructionism.

Posted by: Ben on February 5, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, every problem is an opportunity! Isn't this just the chance Obama needs to push through some sort of filibuster reform? I mean will Landrieu, Snowe & co ALL toe the party line to protect such a move?
POTUS needs to go ballistically public on this, and leverage a return to majority rule!

Posted by: slader on February 5, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

Something's gotta give.

Well, that'll be the Democratic leadership.

After all, there's comity at stake. Can't be upsetting that comity.

Posted by: bleh on February 5, 2010 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

Holds are a "custom" of the Senate, not a law or a constitutional provision, right? In other words the majority could 'repeal' the custom on a majority vote, right? Or just ignore this one because it was general rather than targeted to one person.

But of course, they won't. Reid will be out there worrying himself to death again. Obama will have some elegant, but totally detached rhetoric against it, I'm sure.

Posted by: JohnN on February 5, 2010 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Reid can ignore Senator Shelby's temper tantrum and, as a bonus, should make sure that Shelby never gets another dollar for his state.

Just more evidence that the Senate needs to be abolished.

Posted by: freelunch on February 5, 2010 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Dick Shelby: King of Pork!!

This also points to the corrupting influence of our runaway military spending. Since it has unassailable political cover and is discretionary spending, the military budget is the ultimate ongoing stimulus and graft package.

Fortunately, the tea baggers will be all over this and nip it in the bud, toot sweet!

Posted by: hoi polloi on February 5, 2010 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

bleh beat me to it. I'll add that they will not only give in they will blame it on the 'libruls'.

Posted by: par4 on February 5, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

This is about Pork right? So John McCain should man up and vote closure to release these holds.

Right? Right?


Posted by: Lance on February 5, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

I have already tried to get an email through to Shelby complaining about all of this, it is not getting through, I keep getting the message that the program I requested is not available. Is anyone else having the same trouble?

Posted by: JS on February 5, 2010 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

"Something's gotta give"

That something is the Senate rules which allows this sort of abuse in the first plac...

Oh wait a minute. What the hell was I thinking? Like anyone in power in the Democratic Party would lift a finger to ruffle a few senatorial feathers.

What I meant to say is, that something is the Democratic base which is developing a serious case of compromise fatigue.

Posted by: Lab Partner on February 5, 2010 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Something's gotta give.
-what bleh said.

On the brighter side of this 'defense spending' boondoggle, think how much higher unemployment would be, without useless fighter planes, and bombs that have to be replaced as soon as they are used.

-better than gas pedals on Toyotas. . .

Posted by: DAY on February 5, 2010 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to think you're right, Steve. I've been waiting for what Josh called "the live wire in the gasoline" for months. Despite every GOP effort to hand the Dems campaign issues, they just never seem to bite. You'd think a cheap blackmail stunt like this would put 2010 in the bag for the Dems, but as far as I can see, Harry "Ol' Toothless" Reid is just gonna whine to some reporters for a bit, then go back to kissing Blue Dog ass.
Something had better give, and soon. Our economy is literally circling the drain, and these fucking clowns, Dem and Rep, are walking around with their heads up each others asses.
Pardon my language. This was the wrong story to read first thing in the morning...

Posted by: Kordo on February 5, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall said "Worse than a squeegee man and not much better than a bank robber..."

Democratic Senators must rise in outrage and make "Senator Squeegee" a national joke. Don't back down!

Posted by: KevinMc on February 5, 2010 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

That chutzpah Shelby. What's he think, he's from No Dakota?

Posted by: paulo on February 5, 2010 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

The Hold needs to be removed. It smacks of extortionist tyranny. These appointments need to be filled- are the gonna drag this on for 4 years? Alabama, go eff yourself Neil Young was right.

Posted by: johnnymags on February 5, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

This could be the catalyst for Obama to finally do the recess appointments. All of his nominees I hope.

Posted by: FreeThinkingRedneck on February 5, 2010 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Bitch all you want. But the Democrats and Harry Reid control the Senate. They make the rules. It is time to change them. If they weren't so intent on hanging onto their own perks and privilages they could change this travesty when the new congress starts. If they were interested in governing the country they would do that. But they are not. They are whores. And because they are more interested in their own personal power than governing, nothing will be done about it.

Posted by: SW on February 5, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Reid should have the senate sergeant at arms arrest Shelby as an enemy of the state and throw him in the brig. Reid should then conduct back-to-back-to-back votes on Obama's nominations on a voice vote. The Dems should yell their 'yeas' at the top of their voices. Reid should announce with each vote that the measure passed and move on to the next nomination. Sure this act would be out of character and in violation of senate rules - an obvious act of desperation. But just MAYBE the MSM will pick up on this extraordinary story and actually report this frustrating response to Rethug obstructionism. It would be a cathartic act for the Dems and a statement that they are feed up with the behavior of the party of "no" and they aren't going to take it anymore and dare the Rethugs to publicly defend themselves.

Posted by: Chopin on February 5, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Shelby's no better than a corrupt, provincial political stooge who wants his bribe. What a disgrace to the Senate. Alabamans have reason to be ashamed.

Holding up national security, justice and other critical appointments for a bribe is like the mafia demanding protection money. This is Banditocracy at its worst.

If Obama rewards his bad behavior don't expect Shelby will be good to his word -- we already know he's a turncoat who can't be trusted.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on February 5, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

"Oh. Wait. Sorry, I temporarily forgot that Tiger Woods' sex life is more important than the disintegration of our political system."

Actually, it is the Toyota accelerator pedal that is more important.

Perhaps it is time to invoke a "Constitutional Option" on holds? Simply have Biden invalidate existing holds let the Republicans fulminate.

Posted by: bob h on February 5, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

What a political gold mine.

One would hope that every White House official would be braying abut this 24 / 7. Call out McCain, etc.

And have Reid just pull all holds. All votes now.

But unfortunately, I'm guessing the White House will suggest compromising.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on February 5, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Teabagger/Fox News/talk radio/right blogosphere outrage at Shelby's sleazy quest for pork will begin in 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... never.

Posted by: Steve M. on February 5, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Shelby Blocks All Obama Nominations In The Senate To Assist Airbus Over Boeing?

According to TPM, the bigger of the two earmarks Shelby demands 'to move forward or else' is a $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers. A consortium of Northrop/EADS proposes to build the planes in Mobile, Ala., but has threatened to pull out of the competition unless the Air Force makes changes to a draft request for proposals.

EADS of course is Airbus and their competitor for the program is Boeing.

Posted by: eserwe on February 5, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Shelby's action has nothing to do with his stated reasons. He has placed this blanket hold because his constituents believe that the Democratic Party is illegitimate, because it panders to the wrong people. He dares not say so, but I cannot even figure out why: he has nothing to lose by coming out and saying it, flat, full-strength. In any case, this cowardice is typical -- they are seldom willing to come right out and stand up for what they are proud of -- and this is a weakness that we ought to be able to exploit.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on February 5, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

Where is it written that a single senator can shut down the government? I don't think it is. Then why are the Democrats honoring the blanket hold? Somebody needs to ask Harry Reid.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 5, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Hate to say it, but Cheney & Co. were right. The filibuster rule, on its face, can't apply to confirmation of nominees. Pres. of the Senate Biden should so rule. Time to revive the NUCLEAR OPTION.

Posted by: 6079smithW on February 5, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Ben Nelson extorts money for a vote and it is a 24/7 issue in the media and proof that the world is ending. Now Shelby is doing the same thing, but not just for one vote - for a whole slew of them, many affecting the administrations ability to govern and protect the country. and what will the media do with it?.

whatever happened to the up or down vote mantra.?

Posted by: snuffy on February 5, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Shelby got outmaneuvered by Boeing's lobbyists so this is his response -- declare an Alabama contractor the winner of the tanker contract by fiat or shut down the government. Has there ever been a $40 billion earmark? Is that even legal? There must be a FAR violation in there somewhere.

Shelby's gripe is with the SecDef, fellow Republican Robert Gates, not with Obama. Terrorists urgently need to be hunted down and prosecuted, in the mean time Shelby is filing motions.

What a hypocrite.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on February 5, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Search on Google News for this story and the items are primarily blogs. The "liberal media" just can't be bothered with stories that don't fit in with their chosen story line that Obama has not "reached out" to Republicans.

Posted by: Tired liberal on February 5, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, this post should be "sticky" and float at the top--this tactic is just much, much, too much.

Posted by: A Guest on February 5, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Pres. needs to bring all his appointees into the Oval Office and regretfully announce that he will have to recess appoint every one of them because the unprecedented obstructionism of the Republican minority threatens to make the nation ungovernable. He should promise that the appointees will be brought to the senate for confirmation as soon as hearings and votes can be promised.

Posted by: richard on February 5, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Pounce, dammit! Pounce! If Dems aren't demanding that McConnell put Shelby on leash TODAY, they are not right in the head.

Posted by: Dan on February 5, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Reid can ignore the holds. He's done it before when fellow Democrat Chris Dodd placed a hold on the FISA bill. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I'm not sure it's widely known that the hold is nothing more than a gentleman's agreement on the intent to filibuster.

Ignore the hold, bring the nominations to the floor. This is nothing more than a failure of Democratic leadership from Reid and Obama. Why the hell hasn't he used even a single recess appointment?

If these positions are that flipping important, he should have, right?


Posted by: doubtful on February 5, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

I wish Obama had brokered the Hillary-for-Majority-leader deal instead of SecState. He sure could use a strong fresh ally in this broken Senate about now.

Posted by: ElegantFowl on February 5, 2010 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

No formal rules change is needed because the holds are not a Senate rule, just a custom. Reid has the power to ignore the holds. He has done so only once before -- on one of his own guys, Chris Dodd, when Dodd put a hold on the telecom immunity bill.

No doubt the GOP is hoping that Obama will make a slew of recess appointments which the MSM can then hysterically characterize as an outrageous power grab while failing to report on Shelby's actions at all. Don't do it. Just ignore the damned holds.

Posted by: shortstop on February 5, 2010 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I wish Obama had brokered the Hillary-for-Majority-leader deal instead of SecState.

I really, really doubt she would have gone for that.

Posted by: shortstop on February 5, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Shelby is working for Airbus. Talk about shipping jobs overseas. They might be opening a small plant in Alabama but the real job engine will be in France. Why does Senator Shelby love the French and why does he hate America.

Posted by: ronbyers on February 5, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

How do we put a stop to this? What can we do to make this heard around the country? This thing needs to blow up in Shelby's face. Hard.

Posted by: jonb on February 5, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry but is this "blanket" thing important?

The only news the Dothan Eagle has on Shelby this morning is his petitioning the FCC to get involved in a dispute about the local cable company shutting down a football channel. Now THAT is important.

Very blue in a red-handed state

Posted by: Not America Anymore on February 5, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

How many of you folks want to make a bet on the number of "senior" Democrats who will get on the air on TV and say something about this and get mad?

My guess is "0".

Posted by: Observer on February 5, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Because the public perceives that a huge chunk of the budget is spent on earmarks, this should be so easy to spin; however, Dems are really lousy spinners and this will somehow be turned on it's ear and become Obama's fault for attempting to cut waste fraud and abuse from the huge republican created deficits the Republicans are so worried about.

Posted by: bcinaz on February 5, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

I assume President McCain will be on the network talk shows this upcoming Sunday morning to decry Senator Squeegee's crass earmark abuse.

Posted by: Lab Partner on February 5, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

So yesterday the GSA admin post was filled: after Kit Bond's hold over a lease deal. The vote to end cloture was 82-16; the vote on the nominee was 94-2.

So. Why can't the Dems bring forward a vote on the single most qualified, least controversial, most needed appointee currently in hold, and make the republicans go on public record: do you support raw, crass, pork barrel petty politics, or do you, in fact, support at least some competency in government? So what if they don't get 40 ? Put the f****ers on record.

Then, the next day, the DSC can start running ads in the home states ....

Posted by: bigutah on February 5, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Had "President" McCain not helped torpedo this tanker system, the jobs to be created would have been in Washington State, instead of non-union Alabama. McCain was quite vocal in taking on Boeing. Instead, the jobs will be split between Alabama and Europe. Plus, the Alabama taxpayer is going to have to cough up the needed infrastructure monies for the tanker project.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 5, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Something will give, Steve. The same something that has been giving all along, our leadership in Washington.

And as they give, our seats will fall to the Republicans in 2010. And as the right-wing propoganda, obstruction, and anti-liberal sentiments continue unchallenged and unabated, we can expect 2012 to fall to another Republican figurehead yet again, and we'll have another 8 years of the rape and pillage of our national constitution by the masters who engineered George W. Bush.

God's people, the tea baggers are taking back "their" country using any filthy means possible...and they won't be any more gracious to the rest of us in winning than they were in loosing.

Posted by: Not America Anymore on February 5, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

The right thing would be for Harry Reid not just to ignore the holds, but to call out Shelby personally. Deny the holds, and announce publically that Shelby's abuse of privilege will cost him the ability to put holds on anything for the remainder of the session. Put Shelby in timeout, where he belongs.

Posted by: Randy on February 5, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

I should add that if Reid doesn't have the votes, he doesn't want to ignore the holds. But asking Obama to make 70 recess appointments, as Reid did today, strikes me as a very bad idea for the reasons I noted above. I really don't know what the answer is: Reid could bring some of these to a vote and demonstrate how obstructionist the GOP is being on absolutely every appointment -- IF the caucus would stand together in denouncing the GOP and BIGGER IF the media would actually cover this.

The Republican caucus gets away with this simply because 90 out of 100 voters have no idea that they're doing it and will never find out. There is no public cost to this shit. None.

Posted by: shortstop on February 5, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

The abuse, the arrogance, the corruption ... it's just breathtaking.
And bipartisan.

Posted by: Luther on February 5, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, PJ.
The climate of the south is such these days, that they laud the man.

These are bitter frightened people who believe that ANY action taken against the liberals is appropriate.

Why? Because Fox News and Talk Radio has been pounding it into their heads that liberalism goes against God, country, and freedom, that every last issue the Democrats seek to make headway on is destroying this nation.

I have worked in AL for 3 very long years. These folks swallow what they are fed, and they are fed Fox News and Talk Radio, period.

Posted by: Not America Anymore on February 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Shelby to Reid: "We've noticed you've become too comfortable with a baseball bat up your ass. How's this telephone pole feel?"

Reid: "Just fine. Anything to uphold the spirit of bipartisanship in our chambers. Just show me where to sign."

Posted by: bdop4 on February 5, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

"It's inexcusable and unsustainable. Something's gotta give."

Fortunately the modern democrat spine comes with pre-stressed crumple zones for just such an emergency.

Anyone really think this will go any other way?

Posted by: Tlaloc on February 5, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, doubtful and others, I've been reading more about this and it appears I was mistaken, nowhere near for the first time. Although holds aren't part of Senate rules, this goes to unanimous consent, which of course is missing when someone uses a hold.

A hold, like a filibuster, can be broken by cloture, but it's doubtful that the caucus will hang together.

So Reid could ignore Dodd's hold because he knew Dodd didn't have the votes to stop cloture. He also knows he doesn't have the votes to get to cloture now.

Posted by: shortstop on February 5, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know what the big shock is, republicans have been doing this crap for years and years, blatantly since 1994, so thanks for noticing, but really its been going on for a long time.

Posted by: Henk on February 5, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know what the big shock is, republicans have been doing this crap for years and years, blatantly since 1994, so thanks for noticing, but really its been going on for a long time.

The big shock is that what's been going on for a long time has now been exacerbated to the point that literally nothing can pass the Senate except the budget. Literally. Nothing. If that doesn't shake you out of your cynical ennui, you're not paying attention.

Posted by: shortstop on February 5, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

This is the same Richard Shelby who siphoned off Katrina reconstruction money to build luxury condominiums in his hometown, which experienced no damage worth mentioning from the storm.

Posted by: Colin Laney on February 5, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

According to a study by the Tax Foundation from 2005, Alabama as a state received more federal spending than the state paid in federal taxes in every year between 1981 and 2005. Yet Richard Shelby is among the first to be heard complaining about budget deficits and our national debt, about over-weaning government and taxation!

Posted by: Robert Abbott on February 5, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

This is news? Shelby has been a petty, greedy thug, undermining our system of government for a decade or more.

Posted by: SquareState on February 5, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I seem to recall a progressive Democrat suggesting a hold on some corporate friendly legislation and Reid suddenly figured out a way to circumvent holds.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on February 5, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Is this the way GOP conducts their business. Rumor is this is a bad deal really for Ala. they have to put money into the deal. McCain thought he had stopped this but guess not. Keep it up GOP you are only hurting your image. We can all see now who is really holding up the peoples work in Congress.

Posted by: Pat on February 5, 2010 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

022256.. Amazing :)

Posted by: www.washingtonmonthly.com on April 6, 2011 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK
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