Sunday, June 28, 2009

Obstruct 101

The NY Times notes that 21 of President Obama's nominees to government posts still haven't been confirmed, thanks to the "anonymous" holds placed on them by Republicans. Six months into his presidency, Mr. Obama still has key positions unfilled because of the GOP obstructionism.

Most of the stranded nominees have long since had hearings and majority approval by Senate committees and meetings with lawmakers. None of the nominees have been tainted by scandal or had their core competence questioned. And yet, they remain unconfirmed — one for more than three months and several others for more than a month — mainly because of holds, often anonymous and unexplained, by Republican senators.

Holds are effectively a filibuster, requiring 60 votes to overcome. Used legitimately, they can buy time to clear up unanswered questions about a nominee’s qualifications. But the current widespread holds of uncertain duration are obstructionism. Writing in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Norman Ornstein, a Congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the mass delays are “damaging the fabric of governance.”

The Republicans, who certainly can't be accused of keeping their powder dry, don't have to offer any reasons for the hold, but it's pretty clear that at this point it's one of the few tools at their disposal to side track the new president's agenda, an agenda on which he won the 2008 election. Here's what the Times offers as the GOP's excuses on a couple of nominees:

...Dawn Johnsen, an impressive nominee for assistant attorney general, has been on hold since mid-March. She has aroused Republican ire for her opposition to torture and her repudiation of extreme views of presidential power.

Robert Groves, the nominee for director of the Census Bureau, has been on hold since mid-May. He has been deemed suspect for his expertise in sampling, a statistical method for adjusting miscounts. Republicans charge that sampling could unfairly tilt the census results. That is highly debatable, but, more to the point, it is a nonissue. Mr. Groves testified at his confirmation hearing that sampling will not be used in the 2010 count. But the hold on Mr. Groves endures, enfeebling the Census Bureau in the critical final months before the count.

In both cases, the nominees, the nominees offer a challenge to power, the kind of power the GOP would like to keep. Ms. Johnsen is opposed to the garbage theory of the "Unitary President". Mr. Groves, even though he made it clear that sampling would not be used in the census this time around, represents a movement which would clean up the census process and make it more accurate. That poses a different kind of danger insofar as the census results affect not only how federal moneys are disbursed but also the number of representatives to the House a state would have. Count too many poor people, or people of color, and the Republicans are in trouble.

As the editorial pointed out, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has begun doing his job by garnering the votes necessary to lift those holds (most recently successfully pushing the confirmation of Harold Koh as legal adviser to the State Department), but he still has 21 to go. That will have to wait until the July 4th recess is over, but it will hopefully be high on his agenda when the Senate returns in two weeks.

The Republicans, who are now apparently eschewing the mantra of "up or down" votes, need to be slapped around a little for their obstructionism. This editorial does a pretty good job of doing just that. Now, I've frequently lamented the demise of a responsible press in this country. In this case, however, the NY Times did its job beautifully.

Well done, folks. Oh, and more like this, please.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, 0 comments. Perhaps it's because no one buys your conspiracy crap.

Maybe you should write a blog about cooking or biking or something at which you hippies actually excel. Or maybe bong making.

Enjoy your crappy administration while it lasts. It's going to be a short ass ride.

5:12 AM  

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