Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Country Club

The NY Times has a rather pointed editorial decrying the US Senate rule for allowing secret holds on presidential nominees. The problem has become acute as the Party of No continues to thwart President Obama's nominees to such critical positions as the federal judiciary:

The United States Senate was supposed to have dropped its insidious tradition that let members put endless secret holds on nominations and other important matters. The abuse continues, more murky than ever.

The reform, adopted three years ago, required senators to identify themselves within six days of blocking a nominee, and to state their objection. That stricture has been routinely violated with cheesy gamesmanship. Members — mostly in the Republican minority — pass secret holds among themselves to foil the time limit.

Right now there are 52 nominees on secret holds — all noncontroversial in committee debates. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat of Missouri, is so fed up that she is challenging her colleagues from the Senate floor to fess up. “If you’re gonna stall and block, let’s see who you are,” she demanded in one speech. Charles Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, echoed her, urging secret holders to “have the guts to go public.”

Sen. McCaskill has introduced a bill that would limit the secret part of the hold to only two days, but the editorial suggests that the bill has no chance of passing. How shameful is that?

The whole process stinks. As more than one Republican crowed not so long ago, "Elections have consequences." A new president, regardless of party, has a right to make nominations and the right to an "up-or-down vote," something the GOP has apparently forgotten in their zeal to halt any kind of meaningful governance by the current resident of the White House. Holds, secret or not, need to be removed from the arsenal of the obstructionists. Confirmation hearings and the debates that go with them should be sufficient to vet any nominee.

But, then, this is the US Senate: the most exclusive country club in the world. Such a change in the rules is, I guess, unlikely.

At least this time around.



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