Speaking at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund this week, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) warned that Senate obstructionism has become so severe that it is hollowing out the other branches of government:
It’s absolutely impossible to make the Senate any less deliberative than it is at this moment . … I want to add that this isn’t just about the Senate and legislation. This is about the judiciary and the executive branches, because we are unable to confirm the nominations for the courts. We’re unable to confirm the nominations for the President’s team, and that is outrageous that the Senate, in its role of consulting and confirming, is basically damaging the other two branches of government.
Merkley is right. Although Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) megolomaniacal decision to block all bills that he has not personally approved may be the most dramatic example of widespread Senate obstructionism, conservatives began sabotaging the Senate the minute that President Obama took office. As Attorney General Eric Holder noted yesterday, judicial confirmations have slowed to such a glacial pace that fully half of all federal judgeships will be vacant by 2020 unless the pace improves.
Such obstructionism works because the Senate Rules allow the minority to delay all Senate business by up to 30 hours every time the Senate votes to confirm just one nominee. A new president must fill approximately one thousand Senate confirmed jobs over the course of their first term. So when you multiply the 30 hours of wasted time across all one thousand nominees, it adds up to more time than the Senate is in session for two entire presidential terms: