Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 13, 2010

NO WAY TO RUN A GOVERNMENT, CONT'D.... When President Obama nominated Michael McCrum to be a U.S. Attorney in Western Texas, there was no reason to think there'd be much of a delay. McCrum, a former assistant U.S. attorney, enjoyed the support of Texas' Democratic congressional delegation and endorsements from both of Texas' Republican U.S. senators.

Last week, McCrum told the White House he just couldn't wait anymore. Jonathan Bernstein, who accurately described this as "insane," flagged this item from San Antonio.

Michael McCrum, the leading candidate to be the top federal prosecutor in the San Antonio-based Western District of Texas, withdrew his name from consideration Thursday, frustrated with a dragging nomination process that had put his life on indefinite hold.

The development came as a surprise, given that the former assistant U.S. attorney, now a defense lawyer, had gotten the political nod more than a year ago from Texas' Democratic Congressional delegation and even had support from the state's two Republican senators.

President Barack Obama was expected to nominate McCrum to lead one of the busiest federal judicial districts in the country, with more than 100 federal criminal and civil lawyers in offices in San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Del Rio, El Paso, Midland, Alpine and Pecos.

Republicans didn't block McCrum specifically, they just slowed down the entire process for confirming anyone for anything, and McCrum's nomination just withered on the vine. After more than a year, McCrum could no longer keep his life on hold -- he hasn't been able to take any cases, and his law practice has "dwindled to almost nothing" -- so he withdrew himself from consideration.

Reading a story like this, there's a temptation to focus on how unfair it is for Michael McCrum and qualified nominees like him, who are getting royally screwed by the GOP decision to break the Senate. And to be sure, it is unfair, and I feel for these nominees and their families.

But it's also unfair to you, me, and the rest of the country. We benefit when we have a functioning government, with accomplished, honorable patriots willing to work in the public sector on our behalf. When they say, "To hell with it, I can't wait for conservatives in the Senate to stop playing games," the whole country pays a price.

Bernstein has some compelling thoughts on improving the presidential appointment process. The sooner officials act, the better.

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Comments

C'mon, Steve, only Republicans are patriots. And real patriots want to work in the private sector. So, really, the GOP did McCrum a favor.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on October 13, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

"To hell with it, I can't wait for conservatives in the Senate to stop playing games," the whole country pays a price.

And you can expect the likes of Dave Broder and Carl P. Leubsdorf (the Dave Broder of the Dallas Morning News) to explain why this is all the Democrats fault.

And that's the problem: if Republican sabotage of our government is punished by the media, it isn't going to stop.
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© on October 13, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not a big believer in using constitutional amendments to solve problems....but this seems like the perfect problem to attack that way. A simple amendment stating that any executive appointment or nominee not confirmed or denied by a simple majority vote of the appropriate chamber within 6 months of being nominated is confirmed by default would do the trick.

Posted by: chaboard on October 13, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

-I'll just cut and paste my comment below.

Holds? Filibusters? This what happens when the inmates are allowed to write the rules of the asylum. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 13, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

A simple amendment stating that any executive appointment or nominee not confirmed or denied by a simple majority vote of the appropriate chamber within 6 months of being nominated is confirmed by default would do the trick.

Its not a bad idea chaboard. MY only concern in that circumstance would be that Senators would then allow it to go to the default mode in all cases. That is, every single nomination could then expect to wait 6 months for approval. That would also create a massive backlog. Thing is, Senators would love the opportunity to not have to take controversial votes and just about every vote is controversial for someone.

Posted by: brent on October 13, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

I'm going to do the unpopular thing and blame the voters. You're not supposed to need petty procedural rules in the Constitution. If a Senator is being a jerk you can just vote him out at the next opportunity. As long as the voters keep rewarding this behavior they will keep doing it. Why wouldn't they?

Posted by: ArkPanda on October 13, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

As I watched Pres. Shrub Jr. make one stupid decision after another, I was certain the catalyst that would FINALLY trigger blowback was when he fired those USAs. Boy was I naive. Understand this…..the Rethugs are on a mission when it comes to stacking the courts with the likes of Roberts, Alito and that shit-for-brains Thomas. Court appointments matter as much as stealing elections to the bastards orchestrating the goals of the GOP. Maybe Steve is impressed with Bernstein’s “compelling thoughts”, but I am not. Forming a committee to fix a system both parties agree needs fixing isn’t even a sound premise. The Rethugs are hell-bent on remolding this government into a kingdom. Until you begin ANY conversations about reform, you had better begin with ideas that confront that issue.

Posted by: Chopin on October 13, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Start making recess appointments standard practice after 3 months of waiting.

Posted by: N.Wells on October 13, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever happened to recess appointments? If there was ever a case for them, it should be now. What the hell?

Posted by: grs on October 13, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

The dems are taking a knife to a gunfight with the repukes. It's time to get down in the trenches and fight with the same weapons they're using. They're really pussies when you get right down to it and they'll fold like a house of cards. But for god sakes don't worry about them calling you a meanie.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 13, 2010 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not usually one to blame Obama for things outside of his control (like, say, the failure to enact climate change legislation). But I blame him for this one. He should have raised a lot more hell about this. Imagine what Bush would have done from 2003-2007, had the minority Democrats tried any of this stuff.

Whatever happened to recess appointments? If there was ever a case for them, it should be now. What the hell?

Democrats, in exchange for getting one or two of Obama's nominees confirmed, agreed to a series of pro-forma Senate sessions throughout the recess. That means that technically Congress has not adjourned, and thus recess appointments are not possible.

Posted by: kth on October 13, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Why are the Republicans pro-criminal?

Posted by: Tigershark on October 13, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

STOP WHINING !!
Make a Recess Appointment
As long as Obama plays dumb, this is going to happen
WHY not make recess appointments ?
Time to Man Up, Mr President
And that goes for Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Financial Protection Board

Posted by: frisco on October 13, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans don't want government to work. It's that simple.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 13, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

so far the "party of no" appears to be on the road of reward for their tactics. We have failed civics...

Posted by: andyvillager on October 13, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK
A simple amendment stating that any executive appointment or nominee not confirmed or denied by a simple majority vote of the appropriate chamber within 6 months of being nominated is confirmed by default would do the trick.

6 months is too long of a delay in most cases. I would say make the appointment provisionally effective unless the Senate has taken action by a majority vote within 30 days to either delay or deny the appointment, and becomes permanent unless the Senate rejects the appointment within 6 months. This rule would also obviate the need for a special (and abusable and frequently abused) provision for "recess" appointments.

Though, really, given the fact that the Senate is the least democratically representative of the political branches of government, if I had magical power to amend the Constitution to fix the para-executive powers of the Senate (advise and consent on treaties and nominations), I'd be inclined to take them all out of the hands of the Senate and give them either to the House or to Congress as a whole. But in either case the restriction that, for appointments, a positive act is required to reject. (Treaties should probably be treated as legislation that can't be subject to amendments, so allowing them to fail by inaction in Congress the way legislation can is, if not necessarily desirable, less clearly wrong than is the case with executive appointments.)

Posted by: cmdicely on October 13, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

How long can our nation survive these tactics?

For those blaming the voters, most have no idea. No idea on the details of what's going on, just know that government isn't working and blaming everyone involved. They don't necessarily want to know the details, either.

Example: my reasonably intelligent sister who identifies as an independent doesn't pay much attention because 1) she works full time plus and 2) has many outside interests, one of which is as a volunteer raising service puppies (for a non-profit org), for which she donates not only her time in training the pups, but also her money. Money for food, for the vet (at least the vet gives her a discount), gas to take the pups to classes, etc. She chooses not to get involved with the details of politics because she's so busy with her life. What say we to those people? (Other than that what happens in DC affects their lives.)

I try to keep my family (mostly Rs) informed, but am pretty much shut out because they just don't believe it or don't want to believe it. Though my mom admitted, after I told her about the Downing Street Memos "I suppose it's true". That was a breakthrough for that Bush supporter. I guess we just keep trying.

Posted by: ARGHHHH on October 13, 2010 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK
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