Skip to main content

In a little over 30 seconds on the Senate floor yesterday, Republican leader Mitch McConnell demonstrated everything that's broken in the United States Senate.

A little after noon eastern time, McConnell rose to object to Majority Leader Harry Reid's motion to confirm several Obama Administration officials, including appointees with jurisdiction over issues of national security.

By objecting to Reid's motion, McConnell effectively subjected the nominees to a filibuster, raising the threshold for confirmation to 60 votes (the only way to override his objection on the Senate floor is to invoke cloture on Reid's motion). With the swearing-in of Scott Brown, Republicans now have 41 votes, so as long as they hold together, McConnell's objection cannot be overridden on the Senate floor.

As if that isn't broken enough, McConnell also admitted that he didn't know why he was objecting to Reid's motion other than he was doing it on behalf of Richard Shelby, the Republican Senator from Alabama, who was in some sort of dispute with the Obama administration.

McCONNELL: Madam President, reserving the right to object, and I’m going to do that, I just wanted to indicate that Senator Shelby has been in discussions with the administration over an issue with which I’m not terribly familiar and I believe that that is the genesis of his objection. He is not able to be here at the moment to state his position. Maybe we can, in discussions with him, make some progress on these, sooner rather than later, but for the moment I’m constrained to object on his behalf.

Watch:

Of course, we now know what Shelby wants. Later in the day, his office released a statement indicating that the primary motivation for Shelby's hostage taking was his desire to see the Pentagon's aerial refueling tanker contract go to the European aerospace giant EADS instead of the American firm Boeing. Shelby wants EADS to get the contract because some of manufacturing work would be done in his home state of Alabama.

It's stunning that a senator would be willing to shut down the process of confirming administration appointees simply to help a foreign firm win a military contract. But it's also amazing that Mitch McConnell, the GOP's leader in the Senate, carried Shelby's water without understanding what Shelby was up to or trying to accomplish.

By blindly doing Shelby's bidding, McConnell placed political power above principle, abdicating any potential claim to the moral high ground on Senate procedure. He's given the Democratic Party a huge opening not just to put Republicans on defense, but to reform Senate rules. They must take advantage of it.

:::

Update (11:03AM) -- Dan Pfeiffer, the WH communications director, targets the filibuster in response to McConnell's and Shelby's antics:

This is just the latest example of this kind opposition for opposition’s sake that the President talked about earlier this week.  This strategy of obstruction is preventing qualified people from doing their jobs on behalf of the American people and it’s preventing real work from getting done in Washington. ... The Senate cast more votes to break filibusters last year than in the entire 1950s and '60s combined, making it nearly impossible to come to agreement on key legislation.

Pfeiffer is correct to point to the procedural problems, though this isn't opposition for opposition's sake. Shelby's hold is extortion -- he's holding the nomination process hostage in order to help a foreign aerospace firm win a giant military contract. The fact that the Senate's antiquated rulebook allows him to do this is a major problem, and it's one that can be fixed by eliminating the filibuster at the beginning of the next session of Congress.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:50 AM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site