Appearing yesterday on MSNB’s Dylan Ratigan show, The Nation’s Ari Melber reminds us how Republican obstructionism has crippled administration appointments — and suggests what Obama and Harry Reid should do:
ARI MELBER: Most of you know Congress just left for vacation. Normally when Congress is on recess, the president can make recess appointments to advance nominees that have been obstructed, but it turns out Congress is not really on recess. Republicans are holding symbolic sessions during their entire vacation in order to prevent recess appointments. This is just the latest ploy in a long obstruction campaign by the GOP.
Since Obama came into office, Republicans have blocked an unprecedented number of nominees from ever getting a vote. Take judicial nominees. Republicans have blocked almost half of the nominees for judicial nominations, the worst obstruction rate in U.S. history. ANd The targets aren’t random, either. GOP obstruction has hindered female and minority nominees the most.
Here’s a disturbing statistic from the People for the American Way, and I’m quoting now: “Every district court nominee with unanimous opposition from the Senate Judiciary committee Republicans has been a woman or a person of color.” You know, people forget that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was first nominated to an appeals court back in the day by President Clinton, but Republicans wouldn’t allow her a vote on that nomination. Then, when President Obama nominated her to be the third woman to ever serve on our high court, the same Republicans complained she didn’t have the experience as a judge — even though they were the ones who kept her off the bench.
And meanwhile, nominees for jobs shaping economic policy – obviously the No. 1 issue in this country – have been totally shut down. Obama nominated Nobel economist Peter Diamond to the Federal Reserve Board over a year ago. Republicans filibustered, he was renominated two more times, and he ultimately withdrew in disgust.
The top spot at the famous Consumer Protection Bureau remains empty. Republicans even brazenly blocked votes on nominees for the Board of Protection commissioner at the Homeland Security department and the head of Industry and Security at the Commerce department. Both of those posts were finally filled through recess appointments last year, but it’s only gotten worse.
This week, White House officials openly said they need Tim Geithner to extend his term as Treasury Secretary, in part because Republicans would filibuster a vote on his replacement.
Look, you don’t fight unemployment by trying to shut down one of the most important jobs on the president’s economic team. The solution is pretty simple — Senator Reid and President Obama should call the Senate back in session now, in this hot August summer. They should refuse to adjourn until there are votes on all these nominees. They can use quorum calls, break the silent filibuster that most Americans don’t even know is happening, and they can keep every member working seven days a week and refuse to adjourn unless it’s for a real old-school recess – you know, when recess appointments are on the table.
Just imagine the president speaking to the nation about making government work again instead of just pleading for compromise with his tormentors. Imagine him seizing the initiative on a concrete action plan, and imagine him making a case for an American government based on the people who want to serve our government, to run our schools, protect our borders and put our people back to work. It says a lot about this Congress that they found a way to hinder government and recovery even while they’re on vacation. Well look, let’s bring these guys back to Washington.
MATT MILLER: Ari Melber, great point. And also, what it does is echo the fact for those who say there’s an equivalence between Republican and Democratic responsibility aren’t looking hard enough at what the GOP is doing to block progress in a number of these areas. We’ll have to pick that conversation up another time. Ari, terrific rant.