Following up on Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) threat to lash out at President Obama’s decision to make four necessary recess appointments by seeking revenge against Obama’s other nominees, Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) used a Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday to make a similar threat:
Given this President’s blatant and egregious disregard both for proper constitutional procedures and the Senate’s unquestioned role in such appointments, I find myself duty-bound to resist the consideration and approval of additional nominations until the President takes steps to remedy the situation. Regardless of the precise course I choose to pursue, the President certainly will not continue to enjoy my nearly complete cooperation, unless and until he rescinds his unconstitutional recess appointments.
At the outset, it’s important to note that there is no one in America who has less stature to claim that someone else shows “blatant and egregious disregard” for the Constitution than Mike Lee. Lee believes that federal child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. Taking Mike Lee’s advice on constitutional law is a bit like taking John “Bluto” Blutarsky’s advice on American military history.
Moreover, Lee’s suggestion that he has shown “nearly complete cooperation” in the past is laughably false. Lee openly admits that he filibustered Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray’s nomination because he wanted to sabotage that consumer protection agency, and he filibustered an exceptional nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit because she had the audacity to do her job properly when she was Solicitor General of New York.
Fortunately, the Lee/Grassley plan for scorched earth retaliation does not seem to be resonating with much of the Senate GOP. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) recently said that he “would be surprised if you see mass reprisals,” and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) — who has his own history of aggressive obstructionism — waived off Lee and Grassley’s angry tactic because he doesn’t think it will be a “particularly effective strategy.”
Nevertheless, the Senate’s broken rules enable just one senator to work a great deal of obstructionist mischief even if the other 99 vehemently disagree. Indeed, the fact that the current rules allow someone with the poor judgment of a Mike Lee to work such havoc shows why Obama was right to call for filibuster reform in his State of the Union speech this week. America can ill afford to have its ability to have a functioning government rest in the hands of the Senate’s most radical member.