The White House's nominees to fill those diplomatic jobs and dozens of others have waited weeks or months for confirmation by the Senate before they can begin work. Their fate has become a proxy fight in a larger contest between both parties over control of the Senate schedule, and a growing diplomatic headache. […]Please read below the fold for more on this story.
[D]iplomats say the empty desks are being noticed by foreign governments around the world.
"They all feel it's directed at them," no matter how often U.S. officials explain the underlying political turf fight, said Roberta Jacobson, the top State Department official for Latin America and Canada. "They cannot help but feel this is personal." [...]
Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the change to Senate rules prompted “a death spiral” that continues today. [...]
"He's slowed that down by the action he's taken," Corker said. "Most all of them would have been approved if we had not embarked on the nuclear option."
Calling it a "turf fight," however, isn't accurate. Because it's not Democrats and Republicans fighting over turf. It's about Democrats trying to actually make the Senate function and fulfill its constitutional duty to work with the president and fill vacancies. Republicans are refusing to participate as payback for Democrats' decision last year to end the filibuster on nominees. Unfortunately, the filibuster isn't the only option Republicans have available to them to obstruct and to slow the pace of work in the Senate to a crawl.
The way the Senate used to work, when there were actual grown-up public servants in the opposition party, was to act quickly on large batches of nominees by providing "unanimous consent" for approvals, without debate. Now, Republicans are refusing to provide that consent and each nominee has to be considered and voted on individually. There are now about 50 empty diplomatic posts, which Republicans will insist upon voting on one at a time. Even when the majority of those nominees will probably get 100 votes.
Because Republicans are dragging out work on everything that comes to the floor, lengthening the amount of time it takes to get critical legislative work done, the time Reid can allot for considering nominations is severely restricted. Exactly as Mitch McConnell and his merry band of nihilists intend.