Confirmation Of Obama’s Nobel Prize-Winning Fed Nominee May Hinge On Senate Filibuster Reform

As productive as the 111th Congress was at passing large, important pieces of legislation, it was also a Congress that witnessed “more procedural obstruction under both parties than at any previous time in the past century.” One of the greatest victims of Republican obstruction has been the nominations process. A whole host of President Obama’s qualified nominees have been stalled for inexplicable reasons. Yesterday, the White House announced it would renominate one key member from that list:

President Barack Obama will renominate Peter Diamond to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, a White House official said Thursday, a day after the Senate left town without voting on the nomination.

But when the next Congress convenes in 2011, Mr. Diamond could find it even harder to win backing from the Senate, where Republicans will have five more seats than they do now.

Peter Diamond, a 70-year old MIT Professor of Economics, is of course notable because, subsequent to his nomination, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. Republicans, led by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), have ludicrously argued that Diamond isn’t qualified to sit on the Fed Board.

After Diamond was awarded the Nobel, the Senate Banking Committee approved his nomination for a second time, but Shelby continued to object, forcing Diamond’s nomination to languish at the close of this last Congress.The Senate’s inaction leaves one opening on the Fed and “deprives Chairman Ben S. Bernanke of intellectual support in Fed debates over his efforts to reduce unemployment through an expansion of record monetary stimulus.”

The absurdity surrounding Diamond’s process highlights the urgent need for reform of Senate rules and procedure. As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote, “The reason for this [obstruction] is because dissenting senators can force the Senate to waste hours or even days effectively doing nothing in order to pass a single bill or confirm a single nominee.”

Fortunately, the entire returning Democratic caucus has signed onto an effort to make the Senate procedural process more responsive and efficient. “Such a move could come at the start of next Congress, shortly after the Senate returns on January 5th.” The success of Diamond’s nomination may hinge on what happens on that day.