Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Confederacy of Grown-ups, ctd.

I remember a huge deal being made of filibustering during the Bush Administration when Republicans held both houses of Congress. I remember talk of "Mandates," and threats to do away with the filibuster legislatively. The phrase "up or down vote" was thrown around constantly to let us know that nominees like Harriet Miers and John Bolton could get into office despite concerns about their qualifications. That Democrats could even contemplate ignoring the mandate of the people by trying to block the nominations of the sitting president was laughable, at the very least.

I don't disagree that the concept of filibustering and other processes to hold up progress in Congress are frustrating, and I generally dislike seeing them. I do see a purpose for the process, though, as there are times where there might be legitimate issues that need to be figured out, or more facts that need to come through (see Miers, Harriet. By contrast, I still don't understand the point of holding up the Bolton vote). However, much like I feel about labor unions, I believe it is something that should only be used rarely, when necessity dictates.

That is why I find it deplorable that President Obama felt it necessary to make 15 recess appointments to office. I disagree with the concept of recess appointments as a general principle, but I do think that given the unprecedented scale of obstructionism the Republican Party has embraced during the Obama administration (in part because of "fear" of the "Tyranny of Majority" that mysteriously didn't exist during the Bush years). To wit:
This opposition got so out of hand at one point that one senator put a blanket hold on all of the President’s nominees in an attempt to win concessions on two projects that would benefit his state. And another nominee’s confirmation was delayed by one senator for more than eight months because of a disagreement over a proposed federal building in his home state. When that nominee was finally given the vote she deserved, she was confirmed 96 to 0. When you attempt to prevent the government from working effectively because you didn’t get your way, you’re failing to live up to your responsibilities as a public servant.

To put this in perspective, at this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month. And cloture has been filed 16 times on Obama nominees, nine of whom were subsequently confirmed with 60 or more votes or by voice vote. Cloture was not filed on a single Bush nominee in his first year. And despite facing significantly less opposition, President Bush had already made 10 recess appointments by this point in his presidency and he made another five over the spring recess.
Emphasis Mine. This isn't governance; it's petulance. And it really has no place in government.

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