It sounds like a headline for The Onion: “U.S. Senator Takes 70 Hostages. Demands Billions for Release.”
It’s not. What it is is Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) throwing his weight around and flipping the bird to The Obama Administration.
And why is the former Democrat-turned-Republican blocking 70 of President Obama’s appointees? Because he can.
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.
According to the report, Shelby is holding Obama’s nominees hostage until a pair of lucrative programs that would send billions in taxpayer dollars to his home state get back on track. The two programs Shelby wants to move forward or else:
– A $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers. From CongressDaily: “Northrop/EADS team would 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.”
– An improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI. From CongressDaily: “[Shelby] is frustrated that the Obama administration won’t build” the center, which Shelby earmarked $45 million for in 2008. The center is due to be based “at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal.”
Shelby’s hardball tactics came the same day as The Senate voted 94-2 to confirm President Obama’s choice to head up the General Services Administration almost 10 months after she was nominated. In Johnson’s case her nomination was held up by Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri) who wanted GSA adminstrators to approve a $175 million federal building project in Kansas City.
Quite tellingly, the vote came before Sen. Scott Brown was sworn in as the 41st Republican which will allow the minority party to substain filibusters.
Every politician can rationalize that they’re only interested in supporting the military and national defense when they’re bringing the bacon home, but let’s not get it twisted. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Blocking the President’s appointees because you want to make sure that the defense contractors back in Alabama are taken care of is bullshit.
Shelby has said himself that government can’t create jobs.
But he sure does like earmarks that funnel money into Alabama. He ranks right behind Robert Byrd in requesting earmarks (and Byrd is both old and sick) so Shelby could move up.
Why is he singing a different tune now and how does that justify blocking ALL of Obama’s nominees?
The point isn’t about earmarks. Both parties have their share of pigs feeding at the government trough. Both parties have held up presidential appointees. Nobody is arguing this.
What the point is about is how can anyone justify one Republican pinhead senator who puts his petty parochial priorities over that of the national interest?
The GOP can’t be the party of smaller government and fiscal responsibility on Monday and then on Tuesday stick their hands out screaming, “gimme, gimme, gimme.”
One Senator should not have the power to put the interests of his state over that of the national interest. This isn’t hardball politics. It’s extortion. I’m not offended by Shelby’s actions as a Democrat or a liberal. I’m offended as a citizen who wants politicians to do their freaking jobs and stop with the the partisan games.
If Obama and the Democrats don’t make Shelby and his selfish stonewalling the poster boy for Republican obstructionism, then they’re too incompetent to hold power. Maybe the American people don’t understand the arcane rules of the Senate and all this talk about “legislative holds” and “cloture motions,” but they do recognize arrogance when they see it and nothing better illustrates how out of control the Republicans are than one jerk thinking he can blackmail the President of the United States to do his bidding.
It’s not Obama’s way to roll up his sleeves and go upside someone’s head–figuratively speaking, of course, but as long as the Republicans (and to a lesser extent other Democrats) believe there’s no price to pay by willfully defying this President, the more crap Obama is going to get from them.
So much for Obama inviting the Republicans to join in on the business of governing. Obstruction is so much easier. Especially when you’re trying to bring the pork back to the folks at home.