I’ve recently been following the absurdity that is the U.S. Senate with equal parts frustration and disbelief. OK, I can get my head around how 40 Senators can bring things to a halt via a filibuster. Understanding how one Senator can stop further action on 70+ executive branch nominees is harder to fathom.
This is precisely what Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) did on Thursday according to the office of Majority Leader Harry Reid. Shelby’s holds mean that the Senate cannot vote on a nominee unless the hold is broken using a cloture vote that requires 60 senators or if the senator lifts the hold.
Given his stature as a United States Senator, you could assume that there must be some issue at stake of grave concern and importance for the country. Of course you could assume this, but you would be wrong! According to his own spokesman, Shelby applied the holds because of a dispute over a contract to build Air Force refueling tankers. The issue? Whether the contract will be awarded to a contractor that will build the airplanes in Alabama.
There has been plenty written about this in the press over the past few days, but I think Gail Collins’ New York Times Op-Ed piece on 2/5 (No Holds Barred) really captures the absurdity of it all in a way that can make you laugh out loud.
What do you think?
- Is Shelby justified in doing this?
- What arguments can be made in support of this?
- Should the Senate rules be changed to prevent anyone, of either party, from pulling a similar stunt in the future?
More on this subject:
America is Not Lost by Paul Krugman, New York Times, 02/07/2010