Following in the footsteps of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who placed a hold on over 70 of President Obama’s nominees last year in order to extort tens of billions of dollars worth of pork for his state, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) threw a similar tantrum yesterday over a mere $50,000. Graham (R-SC) promised to shut down all executive branch and judicial confirmations in the Senate until he gets $50,000 to conduct a study on deepening the Port of Charleston:
Graham and fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, spoke at a news conference in Charleston about $50,000 in federal matching funds to move along the process of deepening Charleston Harbor to 50 feet to allow the next generation of larger cargo ships to dock there.
“There is nothing that I will not do to right this wrong,” Graham said. “I talked to the vice president. I made it clear to him that none of their nominees are going forward, that the squeaky wheel seems to get the oil. Well nobody’s going forward in the Senate until we address this.”
Graham is able to get away with this kind of extortion because the Senate failed to fix its utterly broken rules when it had the chance to do so last January. Under these rules, a tiny minority of the senate can force up to 30 hours of pointless delay before the Senate can vote on nearly anything. If these 30 hours are multiplied across all the Senate-confirmed jobs a new president needs to fill, it adds up to more time than the Senate works during two entire presidential terms:
Nor is Graham the only senator manipulating the Senate’s rules to prevent completely uncontroversial matters from moving forward. Earlier this year, eight senators threatened to place a hold on any bill they deem unconstitutional. While this threat may not sound so bad on its own, the list of senators making the threat includes Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who believes that all federal involvement in education violates the Constitution, and Sen. Mike “a noun, a verb, and unconstitutional” Lee (R-UT), who believes that child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution.
While Graham is holding every single of of the President’s judicial nominees hostage, the Republican Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit just spoke out against the Senate’s failure to “approve judges, even those who were not controversial”:
“Some nominations have now been in limbo for over a year,” said [Chief Judge Joel] Dubina. “I don’t know what it’s going to take to break this logjam. But something needs to be done,” he said.“Justice delayed is justice denied and there are only so many hours in the day where a judge, like any other person, can perform quality work.”
Dubina’s remarks echo those of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who also recently called upon the Senate to stop partisan obstruction of judicial nominees.