...And another thing (following up on my comments earlier about slow going on health care reform.
As of December 24, Harry Reid had 60 Democrats who were pretty united in being pissed off at the GOP. They had just finished a major accomplishment, but Republicans, for no good reason except to play to the talk radio guys, held them in Washington to Christmas Eve Day. Harry Reid also knew, although it seemed at the time unlikely, that there was always the chance that he'd lose his 60th vote, either in Massachusetts or to some other unforeseen fluke. He also knew that he was entering an election year, with floor time at a premium, and that he had one major unfinished piece of business from 2009: nominations.
The obvious move would have been to rally the Democrats to return promptly in January -- I would have recommended January 4, the first work day of the year -- to start processing nominations. There are some procedural hurdles (beyond floor obstruction), but most of them can be bypassed, if a supermajority really want to. And if the Republicans complain? Let them. They're obviously abusing holds and filibusters, and everyone knows it; no one out there in the country is going to care if the Dems had used their large majority to confirm a bunch of people that no one ever heard of, and no one would ever hear of. Indeed, just the threat of moving quickly to take care of the backup might have convinced the Republicans to narrow their objections to the handful of nominees they actually object to, and at that point it would have been reasonable for the Dems to negotiate deals on those.
Of course, no such thing happened. And now Reid doesn't have his 60 any more. But, regardless, he still should be pressing hard on the nominations. The Democrats should make it painfully obvious that Republicans are celebrating nothing but obstruction, and the easiest way to do that is to force votes on nominations -- especially the least controversial ones. The GOP can make a plausible argument for blocking health care, or other major legislation, but not for blocking the routine functioning of the government, and Reid should make it clear to everyone in Washington what's going on.
Does Scott Brown really want to make his first dozen or two dozen votes against taking up-or-down votes on things such as the head of TSA, the general counsel of the Navy, and the undersecretary of the Air Force? My guess is that even with forty-one Republicans, the Dems could get cloture and confirmation by overwhelming majorities for well over half of the backlog.
It was a real mistake not to have processed them in the first half of January. Reid should get moving and start to make up for that mistake, right away.