During his reign as Senate Minority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has led his party to engage in an unprecedented level of obstruction — wielding the filibuster to block even routine bills and nominations while simultaneously lying about his own previous support of majority rule in the Senate. No one has fared worse under McConnell’s blanket obstructionism than President Obama’s nominees to key government positions, ambassadorships and judgeships. A massive 237 Obama nominees presently await Senate confirmation, yet Mitch McConnell has done nearly everything in his power to ensure that Obama’s nominees will never even receive a Senate vote.
Because the government includes several agencies and boards whose members are required by law to be bipartisan, however, the party-out-of-power’s Senate leader traditionally gets to make a few nominations of his own. One such McConnell nominee is Sharon Browne, a nominee to the Legal Services Corporation’s board who fundamentally disagrees with the Corporation’s mission of providing legal services to the poor. Browne has spent most of her career with a right-wing litigation shop that repeatedly fought to cut off funding for indigent legal services; and she was a plaintiff in a court case which claimed that a method of funding legal services for poor Californians violated that state’s law. In other words, McConnell has selected someone to help lead the Legal Services Corporation who is committed to destroying the Legal Services Corporation.
Yet despite Browne’s obvious unfitness for this job, and despite the fact that her patron has fought tooth and nail to prevent President Obama’s nominees from even receiving a Senate vote, Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) scheduled a committee vote on Browne’s nomination this Wednesday. Not one Democratic senator has taken a serious step to slow down Browne — such as placing a hold on the nomination — and she appears to be on track for confirmation.
Of course, it remains to be seen how Wednesday’s vote will go. Maybe HELP Committee Democrats will do the right thing and kill Browne’s nomination outright. It’s also possible that the HELP Committee members will lack sufficient spine to do so, but a minority of Senate Democrats will block Browne’s nomination by subjecting it to a McConnell-style filibuster. Or maybe Browne’s nomination will simply be rejected by the full Senate. Should the Senate majority allow Browne to be confirmed, however, they will send a clear message to Mitch McConnell and his ilk: “keep on blocking President Obama’s nominees, because there will be no consequences whatsoever if you do so.”