Obstruction of Well-Qualified Obama Nominees Succeeding


Dawn Johnson has all the relevant qualifications for a job at the Department of Justice. And she’s been nominated for such a position. And she has the support of a majority of the Senators on the Judiciary Committee. And she has the support of a majority of members of the United States Senate. Naturally, that means she can’t be confirmed:

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moves to ease a backlog of executive branch nominations, he suggested on Tuesday that he does not have the votes to bring up President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Joining the GOP in opposition are Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Arlen Specter (D-PA). The main objection to Johnson is that she’s pro-choice. Which is strange since of course Barack Obama is pro-choice as are the vast majority of his appointees. Indeed, even Senator Specter is pro-choice. He was even pro-choice when he was a Republican! And note the total lack of outrage in Reid’s comments. The lack of piss and vinegar. Just a kind of slinking resignation. After all, why should well-qualified nominees with majority support be confirmed? This is the world’s greatest deliberative body!

And then there’s the case of David Hayes:

The Senate Democratic leadership is preparing to lose a vote Wednesday morning on the confirmation of David Hayes as Deputy Secretary of Interior. If that happens, it would be the first time Congress votes to reject one of President Obama’s nominees. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley tells CNN that Democrats believe Republicans will vote in lockstep to block Hayes’ nomination, and therefore, it will fail.

Republican objections to Hayes appear to have little to do with him or his qualifications, and more to do with an Obama administration policy. Specifically, Utah Republican Robert Bennett has been leading his party’s opposition to Hayes because of an Obama decision to cancel oil and gas leases in Utah.

“This is not about Hayes,” Bennett spokeswoman Tara Hendershott tells CNN.

I think it’s pretty obvious that the trends over the past 5-10 years are pointing in the direction of constant filibustering leading to the total paralysis of the American government. There was never an intention of creating a standing 60 vote supermajority rule in the Senate, and for the vast majority of American history filibustering was a routine measure rather than an everyday thing. Now that it’s become routine, the situation is untenable and it’s urgent to start looking for a path to shifting to majority rule. That would presumably involve some kind of staggered phase-in or something to mitigate charges of opportunism. Or it could be done opportunistically. Either way, the sooner the better.