GOP Sen. Shelby Holds ALL Obama Nominees Hostage Over State Pork
February 5, 2010
(ChattahBox)—-A U.S. Senator is holding the entire Senate hostage, unless President Obama delivers two pork projects to his state. Who is this elected official engaging in an unprecedented abuse of power? Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. Sen. Shelby placed a “blanket hold” on every single nominee sent to the Senate by President Obama for confirmation. There are at least 70 nominees on the Senate calendar. Republican holds on presidential nominees have reached record levels, since Obama took office, stalling the business of the Senate and depriving our nation of the staff needed for the safety and security of our country. But this is the first time in recent memory that a single Senator placed a hold on the entire calendar of nominees.
The unprecedented “blanket hold” was first reported by the Federal Times and then the Mobile Press-Register. Talking Points Memo then reported on the abuse of power. The hold means no nominations can be voted upon unless Senate Democrats can obtain a 60-member cloture vote to break the hold, or until Shelby decides to remove it. Shelby has not responded to a request from the Mobile Press-Register for an explanation of why a U.S. Senator is holding his own institution hostage.
Shelby apparently placed the unprecedented hold, in order to obtain federal funds for his State of Alabama, to build an improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI. “[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 is also miffed over the federal bidding process for a $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers. “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.”
As noted by Steve Benen of The Political Animal, “Just when it seemed Republican obstructionism couldn’t be any more offensive, at least one far-right senator finds a way to kick things up a notch.”
Benen doesn’t pull any punches, as he characterizes Shelby’s shocking abuse of power that’s tearing down our system of government:
“The abuse, the arrogance, the corruption … it’s just breathtaking. Shelby is proving himself to be little more than a petty, greedy thug, undermining our system of government until he’s been paid off to his satisfaction.”
According to a report compiled by Foreign Policy.com, the Republican obstructionism of presidential nominees is undermining the ability of our Democracy to function:
“One year into the Bush administration, there were 70 appointees awaiting confirmation. One year into the Obama administration, there are 177. And dozens of those holds are directly affecting the agencies responsible for the United States’ security and foreign policy, amid two wars and an amped-up terrorism threat. The United States has no ambassador to Ethiopia, no head of the Office of Legal Counsel, no director at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, no agricultural trade representative.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that President Obama may be forced to make recess appointments to overcome Republican holds that are slowing the business of the Senate to a crawl:
“There isn’t enough time in the world–Senate world at least–to move cloture on every one of these. We have spent all week–all this week–on two people,” Reid said.
“I have been someone…who has tried hard not to do–have the President do recess appointments. But what alternative do we have? We have on the calendar dozens of people who have been held up. Dozens. And I’ve only picked out a few. These are people dealing with the safety and security of our country. I think it’s just without explanation why this is happening,” added Reid as he spoke on the Senate floor.
(Update: WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs condemned Shelby’s blanket hold:
“I guess if you needed one example of what’s wrong with this town, it might be that one senator can hold up 70 qualified individuals to make government work better because he didn’t get his earmarks,” Mr. Gibbs told reporters today. “If that’s not the poster child for how this town needs to change the way it works, I fear there won’t be a greater example of silliness throughout the entire year of 2010.” He added: “It boggles the mind to hold up qualified nominees for positions that are needed to perform functions in a government because you didn’t get two earmarks.”
Source: Talking Points Memo
h/t Daily Kos