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Richard Shelby Shuts the Government Down

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Richard Shelby Shuts the Government Down"

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I’ve often yearned for some high-minded, reform-oriented Senator to announce that he intends to place a hold on all presidential nominations until the confirmation process is reformed. Well it looks like Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama has stepped up to the plate with a hold on all executive nominations currently on the calendar—that’s over seventy jobs.

Except it turns out that Shelby isn’t begging for reforms to the process. Nor is he even begging for small government. He’s begging for handouts—juicy slabs of pork that benefit his state. Specifically, he wants plans for air-to-air refueling tankers rejiggered so as to secure a $40 billion contract for a Northrup/EADS team to build the thing in Alabama. He also wants the Obama administration to greenlight a $45 million Shelby earmark for builing an explosive testing center in Alabama.

At any rate, I congratulate Shelby on fully exploring the logic of the modern United States Senate. Why, after all, should a great nation of 300 million people have a functioning government if preventing the government from functioning can help a lone Senator advance parochial interests? Why should a Senator act like a statesman when all the objective forces are urging him to act like an unusually pretentious ward heeler? Why hold one nominee when you can hold seven or seventy? Good for him! Now can we change this process? Anyone who’s cleared by committee should be guaranteed a floor vote within some specified short period with the Majority Leader able to schedule the moment unilaterally without unanimous consent or sixty votes or any other nonsense.

‹ Martha Johnson

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