It looks for all the world like former Justice Department evildoer Hans Von Spakovsky will slip through and land his share of Wingnut Welfare: a paycheck from the Federal Election Commission.
Von Spakovsky's nomination has been red-flagged for months, since revelations regarding his role in voter suppression schemes, approval of racially discriminatory redistricting schemes, and other transgressions came to light. Von Spakovsky's reward for permanently perverting the electoral system on behalf of the Bush "administration?" A cushy seat with the nation's elections watchdogs. Brilliantly played!
So, you already know where this is going, right? Senate Democrats aren't going to stop his nomination.
Well, one suggestion has been that there's some kind of a dealbetween Democrats and Republicans -- specifically to accept Von Spakovsky in exchange for a preferred Democratic nominee -- but I believe the reason is much more mundane than that.
In today's Senate Rules committee session, which met to consider the nominations, Republicans were pulling out all the procedural stops to get this done:
During the Rule Committee’s executive meeting Wednesday, Feinstein originally said she wanted to vote on each nominee separately, as opposed to considering all four nominees together in one vote, as the committee has done in the past. Republicans on the panel objected, arguing that the move breaks all known committee precedent on moving FEC nominations.
"The precedent is very clear," said Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah), the ranking Republican on the panel. "Nominations to the FEC have always been reported en bloc and in pairs."
But Feinstein said committee rules governing FEC nominations allow only for passing nominations that have unanimous consent, which her objection would prevent. After about a half-hour of negotiation, Feinstein and Bennett agreed to pass all of the nominations without recommendation.
See that? Republicans sought to prevent a separate vote on Von Spakovsky, instead saying that all four pending nominations to the FEC had to be voted on together. FEC nominations are made in equal numbers at the suggestions of both parties. In this case, two Democrats and two Republicans. Feinstein wanted to consider each nominee separately, but Republicans said it was all or none.
Bottom line: the nominations now go to the floor for a full Senate vote. Von Spakovsky has passed the first hurdle.
Now, couldn't Feinstein have forced the issue? Couldn't she have held a vote on whether or not they should consider the nominees together or separately? Sure. But the Rules committee is divided 10-9 in favor of Democrats. And guess what?
This morning's result: faced with the defection of a Democrat on the committee, later revealed to be Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) chose to agree to send all four nominees, two Democrats and two Republicans, to the floor without recommendation.
Ah, Ben! Ben, Ben, Ben. What are we going to do with you?
So what's next? The floor vote. And how will that be handled?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was on hand to back up Bennett’s assertions about Senate precedent, said he would not tolerate any attempt to separate von Spakovsky’s nomination from the three other FEC nominations on the Senate floor.
"None of these nominees will move across the Senate unless they move together," he said. "The view has always been that the Democrats pick the Democrat candidates and Republicans pick the Republicans."
Yes, Republicans will presumably filibuster the nominations -- all of the nominations -- if the Senate tries to take an UpperdownvoteTM on Von Spakovsky.
And why will that work?
Because the failure to roll over for the Republicans will leave us with four vacancies on the FEC heading into a presidential election year. And Democrats don't want to be "responsible" for that. Heavens, no! (Even though the biggest knock going against the FEC is that they don't do anything, anyway.)
So, the reasoning goes, it's better to put Von Spakovsky in cold storage at the FEC and let him live on Wingnut Welfare (at taxpayer expense, as all the best welfare is). After all, it's not like he's still at the Justice Department, where he could do real damage. It's just the FEC. During a presidential election year. Which was important enough five seconds ago, as I recall, to justify this whole thing, but appears to have lost its importance toward the end of this paragraph.
What was I saying, again?