Individual senators hold an enormous amount of power in Washington, which is exactly the way they like it. But when that power is abused, as two Republicans are now doing in trying to derail the nomination of a defense secretary, it has to be curtailed.
The two senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, say they will place “holds” on President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon. A hold is a kind of minifilibuster, preventing unanimous consent to take up a bill or nomination, and preventing an up-or-down vote. Using this power for showboating, as Mr. Graham and Mr. Inhofe are doing, shows how easy it has become for senators to put petty personal demands ahead of the country’s needs.
One of Obama’s actions against gun violence has been to move towards ending the de facto ban, instigated by the pro-gun lobby, on scientific research on the topic. Scholars have released the following chart, tallying cause of death against the amount of research carried out on that cause:
Condition/Cases in U.S./Number of NIH Grants
Firearms injuries/more than 4 million/3
Just another example of a rational science-based approach from the adults in charge.
Local officials in Texas are discussing whether to band together to expand Medicaid coverage in some of the state’s biggest counties, making an end run around Gov. Rick Perry’s opposition to the expanded program included in President Obama’s health-care law.
For years, Texas’s six most populous counties, as well as some smaller localities, have offered free or low-cost health care for uninsured residents with incomes as much as three times the federal poverty level, or about $57,000 for a family of three. The cost of the programs: about $2 billion a year.
If some of the patients were enrolled in Medicaid, the state-federal health-care program for the poor, it could be salve for cash-strapped county budgets and a boon for local taxpayers.
President Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stirred a backlash from Republican senators, and now a number of other nominees—whose confirmations had been moving forward smoothly— may be in doubt.
Waiting for Senate approval are: the two Fed governor nominees, Jerome Powell and Jeremy Stein; Martin Gruenberg, chosen to chair the FDIC; Thomas Hoenig, appointed as FDIC vice chairman; and Thomas Curry, picked to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The Senate Banking Committee greenlighted Gruenberg, Hoenig and Curry weeks ago. But given the smarting over Cordray, many have wondered whether Republicans would turn on these nominations to punish the president for circumventing a Senate vote.
President Obama appointed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without a Senate vote. (SOURCE: AP )
But one Republican member of the banking committee, Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), suggested Tuesday that Republicans might be cautious about resorting to pure obstructionism. When asked what Republicans intended to do about the pending Treasury and Fed nominations, Corker suggested they were still deliberating their strategy.
“I don’t know. I don’t think you’re going to see carte blanche reprisal,” he told reporters.
Any obstructionist strategy could backfire, as it did during House Republicans’ battle with the White House over raising the nation’s the debt-limit and extending the payroll tax holiday .
Another reason to be cautious: Some of the nominees on hold have strong ties to the Republican Party, which could give some senators pause about a filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested Hoenig for the FDIC job, and Powell was a former Treasury official in the Bush administration.
President Barack Obama is pressing congressional Republicans to approve his pick to head a new consumer watchdog office, promising he won’t back down on his effort to protect middle-class Americans from deceptive business practices and prevent another financial meltdown.
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“Every day America has to wait for a new consumer protection watchdog is another day that dishonest businesses can target and take advantage of students, seniors and service members,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. “So I refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer. Financial institutions have plenty of high-powered lawyers and lobbyists looking out for them. It’s time consumers had someone on their side.”
Senate Republicans this week blocked Obama’s appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency they said had been given too much power and too little accountability. Without a director, the office designed to shield consumers from the excesses behind the 2008 financial crisis is unable to operate at full strength.
With voters set to begin selecting a Republican presidential nominee in less than a month, Obama suggested the disagreement is another example of two parties who see fairness very differently. He said a consumer watchdog agency is critical to protecting ordinary Americans from the greed of the financial sector.
John Roberts used the “Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary” to blast Senate Republicans for blocking the confirmation of judges. It is really, really unusual for the Supreme Court to criticize the legislative branch this way, and another sign of just how unprecedented and misanthropic the obstructionism of the GOP has been.
It also proves that Roberts, while very much a conservative, is a man of principles.