Friday, October 30, 2009

Obstructing-- It's The Republican Way... That And Hypocrisy

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South Carolina Republicans say they don't have the time to deal with impeaching the state's Republican Governor. Many Republicans are worried that if they get rid of him they'll look even worse because the Lt. Governor, Andre Bauer, is a closeted gay man and that would make three of the state's highest ranking and most visible "family values" Republicans closet cases-- Bauer, senior Senator Lindsey Graham and state Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell. On the other hand, maybe they don't have enough time to deal with impeaching Sanford because they're all as sex-obsessed as their former colleague (now a South Carolina Assistant Attorney General) Roland Corning. Former legislator Corning was caught with an 18 year old girl in his car... in a dark downtown cemetery. And there's more.
According to an Associated Press report, Corning, who was a Republican legislator in the late 80s and early 90s, was relieved of his position on Monday after he was found with a stripper in a cemetery by a police officer. It is not exactly clear what it was that he did that warranted him being fired, as neither he nor the stripper was arrested.

What is known at this point is that a police officer approached Corning's SUV that was parked in a remote part of the cemetery. When the officer approached, Corning sped off. After traveling just a few blocks, he pulled over.

He reportedly had an 18-year-old employee of the Platinum Plus Gentleman's Club in the vehicle with him. When questioned as to why they were in the cemetery, they gave conflicting stories.

Corning showed the officer on the scene, Michael Wines, his badge, which showed that he worked at the state Attorney General's Office. As it turns out, Officer Wines' wife works at the state Attorney General's Office, so he called her to confirm that Corning was telling the truth.

Officer Wines then searched Corning's vehicle. He reportedly found a Viagra tablet and sex toys therein. When he questioned Corning about the items, he reportedly said that he kept them in his SUV "'just in case.'" What does that even mean?

But this isn't really supposed to be a post-- not this early in the day-- about how hypocritical and sexually ambivalent South Carolina Republicans are. It's really about the Republican strategy for making themselves look attractive by undermining Obama's attempts to rescue the country from the 8 years of Bush/GOP misrule. Ritual obstructionism is what observers call that strategy and nowhere has it been more apparent than in their determination to keep the president's judicial nominees from being confirmed. Yesterday we saw how Republican anti-Asian racism has launched a Fox-backed jihad against Ed Chen, a highly regarded magistrate judge who would be the first Asian-American to serve on California’s northern district bench if the Republicans stop blocking the nomination. But Chen is just one of dozens of judicial nominees the Republicans are blocking. Harry Reid, who is feeling a great deal of pressure himself, absolutely excoriated Republicans for their spiteful obstructionism:
“Last week, four Nevadans tragically died from the H1N1 virus. In Clark County, Nevada-- the state’s most populous county and the home of Las Vegas-- 18 people have now died this year from H1N1.
 
“We are all familiar with this strain of the flu-- it has been on the front pages for months. This past weekend, President Obama declared the outbreak a national emergency in anticipation of a rush of patients to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.
 
“Fortunately, for nearly 150 years the United States has had a high-ranking official in place to serve as the government’s top public-health officer. We call that person the Surgeon General.  
 
“Unfortunately, though, right now we have no permanent Surgeon General in place.  And the reason is as simple as it is mind-boggling: Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm President Obama’s exceptionally qualified nominee for this job.
 
“I would try to explain the Republican reason for their refusal, but as with so many other things they oppose, a rationale simply doesn’t exist. Senate Republicans are simply so opposed to everything-- absolutely everything-- that they even oppose putting people in some of the most important positions in our government... [I]n fact, in the first four months of the Bush Administration, when the Senate was controlled by the President’s party and we were in the minority, there wasn’t a single filibuster of a Bush nominee. Not one.
 
“But in the first four months of the Obama Administration, Republicans filibustered eight of his nominees. That means that President Obama faced twice as many filibusters of his nominees in his first four months as President Bush faced in his first four years.
 
“Now, those watching and listening may also understandably assume that if this is not how the Senate always operates, there must be something extraordinarily controversial about these nominees-- something highly objectionable, or even questionable. Again, there is not.
 
“As I mentioned, Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm our nation’s Surgeon General at a time when the President has declared a national emergency over the H1N1 virus. But President Obama’s nominee, Regina Benjamin-- a physician from Alabama and the founder of a non-profit rural health clinic-- is eminently qualified for the position.
 
“That’s not all. They also refuse to confirm the top official responsible for science and technology in our Department of Homeland Security. For that position, President Obama nominated an expert in combating both pandemics and bioterror attacks. Imagine that: Americans are bracing against a flu epidemic here at home and threats of terrorism from abroad, the President nominated someone highly experienced in both of those areas, and Republicans are saying no.
 
“If that sounds like something you wouldn’t want your Senate to do, you might be even furthered concerned that it’s not the first time these Republican Senators have done it. While our sons and daughters are fighting in Iraq and rebuilding that nation, Republicans earlier this year delayed the confirmation of America’s ambassador to Iraq. And while troops serve bravely in Afghanistan, Republicans earlier this year delayed the confirmation of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, our new commander in that difficult war.
 
“These telling examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Allow me to continue:
 
“Months ago, President Obama picked a trade expert who worked in the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations to be this nation’s Deputy Trade Representative. But she has yet to officially join the Obama administration. Why? Because a Republican Senator is holding up the nomination over a bill that he thinks would hurt tobacco companies... These examples are not isolated. They are part of a much larger pattern.  Republicans this year have already gone to great lengths to ensure President Obama cannot have his full team in place.
 
“They have already wasted taxpayers’ precious time and money by holding up the President’s nominees for:

·       the Secretary of Labor;

·       the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

·       the Director of National Drug Control Policy

·       the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior;

·       two members of the Council of Economic Advisors;

·       several Assistant Attorneys General;

·       and many others.


“These nominees finally broke through. But their story doesn’t end there. When votes were finally called, they passed with flying colors: They passed with vote counts of 89-2, 97-1, 88-0 and 97-0. The numbers don’t lie, and there’s no clearer evidence that many of these objections are without merit.
 
“So it’s obvious that these objections are not the norm, that they are not based on qualifications, and that they are rampant.
 
“As far as Republicans are concerned, no one is too important to block, no high-ranking position is too important to remain empty, no problem is too urgent to delay.
 
“If I sound like a broken record, it’s because Senate Republicans continue to be record-breakers. Last year, after they held up the work of Congress more than any other time in history, the American people rejected the Republican status quo. They said ‘no’ to Republicans’ just-say-no strategy.
 
“There is no question the American people are taking notice. There is no question they see these games for what they are. There is no question they are fed up with these petty, partisan tricks. And there is no question that these reckless tactics have consequences.
 
“I would say that Republicans delay and delay at their own peril-- but the truth is, all Americans suffer. It’s time Republicans let us get to work.”

Doug Kendall penned a post about ritual Republican obstructionism for Slate earlier this week, The Bench in Purgatory. "It seems clear," he writes, "that Senate Republicans are prepared to take the partisan war over the courts into uncharted territory-- delaying up-or-down votes on the Senate floor for even the most qualified and uncontroversial of the president's judicial nominees. If this continues, it will worsen an already serious problem of vacancies on the federal courts. And it will discourage from ever entering the confirmation process precisely the type of nominees both parties should want."
One might expect that Obama would have a much easier time getting his nominees confirmed than Bush. After all, Obama remains popular, and his party controls a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats in the Senate. And Obama has been exceedingly careful in his judicial picks. His team is searching high and low for nominees who fit the bill as consensus candidates: so much so that his pace for judicial nominations, of 22 so far, is far behind Bush's.

The emerging Republican strategy is to hold these uncontroversial nominees hostage as pawns in the larger war over President Obama's agenda and the direction of the federal judiciary. The Senate operates according to a set of arcane rules that allows a minority party to bring the institution to a halt if it chooses to do so. Most bills and nominations pass through the Senate with no debate and only a voice vote on the Senate floor. But this requires every senator to play along. By stonewalling on every nominee so far, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is requiring his counterpart, Sen. Reid, to negotiate, or devote precious floor time, for every judicial confirmation.

This is unprecedented and dangerous. There are already 95 vacancies on the federal bench at a time when there is bipartisan agreement that we need more judgeships. The last thing we need is for existing seats in overworked courts to go unfilled.

Even more important, Republican obstruction of uncontroversial nominees undermines the one part of the judicial confirmation process that was still working, until now. Well-qualified nominees who enjoy bipartisan support should be able to count on a fair and relatively smooth Senate confirmation process. This is critical because while they're waiting, the careers of these nominees go on hold. Given the demands of the bench, and the gap between judicial salaries and what these candidates could earn in private practice, the nation is already lucky that top candidates are willing to serve. If we throw in an unpredictable and lengthy confirmation process, the quality of the federal bench-- and the dispensation of justice-- will unquestionably suffer.

The molasses treatment Republicans are giving Obama's consensus judicial nominees should convince President Obama that accommodation is fruitless. Republicans are spoiling for a fight over judges, bucked up by an energized base and polling that indicates that such a fight will help them. Obama cannot avoid a confrontation. And those of us who care deeply about a well-functioning judicial branch should work now to stop this new form of obstructionism.

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6 Comments:

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Hey, Howie, I asked here before and never got a response on this. I'm curious: is the Congressional confirmation process of Executive branch appointments actually part of the law, or is it, you know, a matter of courtesy and tradition? Because if the latter, perhaps it's time that the Obama administration simply did the unthinkable (which will have Fox and Rush in a snit) and just made his appointments without kowtowing to the endless obstructionists.

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Yeah, Executive appointments have to be confirmed by the Senate

 
At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Shiks said...

Howie, Yes Republicans are obstructionists but the democrats (Lieberman and Sanders) have 60 votes! Now these are the Presidents nominees, either the democrats support them or they don''t and Harry should make that very clear. I know the senator have this chuminess but hey ... I remember Reid ignored Dodd's hold during FISA. I just think the dems are weak kneed on this issues. Republicans should just be ignored and if the democrats and its only democrats who can filibuster, lets dare them!

 
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