Conservatives in Congress and in the media are attempting to block or delay a growing number of critical nominees for what amount to ideological witch hunts and self-interested horse-trading. As the President attempts to deal with the significant legal and logistical questions surrounding two wars, closing Guantanamo Bay, and caring for our nation’s veterans, the people Obama has picked to assist him with such issues are being forced to wait in the wings.
In the last week alone, at least four separate nominees who thought they were on track to be approved will have to wait at least a few more weeks:
Department of Defense: Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) announced today that “they are blocking President Barack Obama’s nomination of Ashton Carter as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.” The senators want assurances that Carter will not “change the criteria” on which the Pentagon considers a refueling tanker contract that could benefit defense contractors in their state.
Department of Veterans Affairs: Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) asked the Senate Veterans Affairs committee to delay voting on the “nomination of Tammy Duckworth, an injured Iraq war helicopter pilot, to be an assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Contacted by ThinkProgress, Burr’s Press Secretary, David Ward said that Burr is waiting for the answers to several questions he’s put to the White House and Duckworth, but would not disclose what those questions were.
White House Office of Legal Counsel: Dawn Johnsen’s nomination as head of the OLC has been delayed in part because Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has ideological differences with her. As the Legal Times explained, “citing Johnsen’s criticisms of Bush national security policies, [Cornyn] accused her of lacking ‘the seriousness and necessary resolve’ to fight terrorism,” while “other Republicans have targeted her work as legal director for NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1988 to 1993.”
Department of State: Right wing commentators are working to block the appointment of Harold Koh to the State Deptment’s top legal adviser, smearing him as a “threat to democracy” for his being an international law expert. As the Century Foundation notes, “The fervent opponents of Harold Koh turn out to be enthusiastic defenders of John Yoo.”
Additionally, Chris Hill’s nomination as ambassador to Iraq is still being held up by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) at the behest of the right wing. This despite the fact that Secretary of State Robert Gates recently issued a rare statement on a diplomatic appointment saying, it is “vital that we get an ambassador in Baghdad as soon as possible.” These delays are just the latest in a long string of delays. The nominations of Attorney General Eric Holder, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren were also held up for largely partisan reasons.
Last night, Rachel Maddow reported Sen. Burr’s efforts to block Duckworth’s appointment. Addressing Burr, Maddow said, “How about diligently doing the right thing right now and picking a different high horse to ride in on, ok? You picked the wrong thing here.” Watch it: