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This Guy Is Holding America Hostage

And who is he? Senator Richard Shelby. He wants his home state of Alabama to get a $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers and...


And who is he? Senator Richard Shelby. He wants his home state of Alabama to get a $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers and an improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI. And he's not going to let any of Obama's nominees for administration jobs get through the Senate until he gets them.So basically 2,000 jobs that require Senate confirmation are going to remain unstaffed until Shelby gets $40 billion for Alabama which, at the going pork-to-campaign-donation exchange rate, probably translates into a few hundred thousand for Shelby personally. In the meantime we're going without judges and department heads and whatnot. Oh, and never mind that Shelby wanted to prohibit this kind of ploy in 2005.This "blanket hold" is legal, according to the rules, but no one's been unreasonable enough to do it before. If you want to know the procedural details, read Ezra Klein's explanation.Matt Yglesias points out a possible silver lining:
I congratulate Shelby on fully exploring the logic of the modern United States Senate. Why, after all, should a great nation of 300 million people have a functioning government if preventing the government from functioning can help a lone Senator advance parochial interests? Why should a Senator act like a statesman when all the objective forces are urging him to act like an unusually pretentious ward heeler? Why hold one nominee when you can hold seven or seventy? Good for him! Now can we change this process? Anyone who's cleared by committee should be guaranteed a floor vote within some specified short period with the Majority Leader able to schedule the moment unilaterally without unanimous consent or sixty votes or any other nonsense.
I had the sense that a lot of the Senate's business was made possible by informal standards of reasonableness, but I didn't quite grasp that any member could grind everything to a halt for $40 billion.
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