Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) evidently doesn’t like online gambling very much, and in 2006, he helped craft a law banning the processing of online wagers. The law and its corresponding regulations were supposed to go into effect last month, but the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve pushed back the start-date until June.
Kyl doesn’t like the decision and is making his displeasure known by placing holds on pending nominations to the Treasury Department:
Senate Minority Whip Kyl is blocking pending Treasury Department nominees with jurisdiction over tax policy and international finance in response to the Obama administration’s delay of new Internet gambling prohibitions, according to Senate aides…Kyl was among the few arguing against a delay.
Now, I don’t have much of a position on these internet gambling regulations, but suffice to say, a six month delay in implementing them doesn’t seem like the end of the world — and it appears that most of the Senate agrees. But Kyl’s action really does highlight how far conservatives have gone to prevent Obama’s appointed officials from doing their jobs.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker touched on this in a recent interview with Charlie Rose. “Here we are on Dec. 29, almost a year after the Inauguration, and there is no Under Secretary of the Treasury. That should be an important position. How can we run a government in the middle of a financial crisis without doing the ordinary, garden-variety administrative work of filling the relevant agencies?” he asked. Brad DeLong also noticed the problem, calling the lack of confirmations at Treasury “disgraceful and insane.”
According to the Washington Post, there are still six Treasury nominees outstanding. One of the nominees that Kyl is holding, Michael Mundaca, served in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, so his nomination can’t be all that controversial.
But this isn’t a problem confined to Treasury, as more than 200 nominations are still pending, including those “for executive branch positions, federal judgeships, ambassadorships, as well as U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal posts.” Right before adjourning for the winter break, the Senate rebuffed six administration nominees, including Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen and Department of Labor Solicitor nominee Patricia Smith. Obama is reportedly planning to re-nominate some of those, including Johnsen.
As Matthew Yglesias wrote, “after an election, the country needs a well-staffed executive branch. Putting the squeeze on an administration by holding up its appointees is a way of holding the interests of the whole country hostage to a petty agenda.” And indeed, because of one of Kyl’s pet issues, the Treasury doesn’t have all its people in place while it tries to rebuild after an economic crisis. This is no way to run a government.