Friday, April 16, 2010

Logjam Breaking?

Via Yglesias, Annie Lowery reports that the Democrats are finally moving to a cloture vote on a key Treasury Department appointment, Lael Brainard to be Undersecretary for International Affairs.  She's been in limbo for over a year.  Lowery doesn't say when a floor vote is expected and whether there will be any GOP opposition, but she leaves the impression that things may move smoothly from here.

As regular readers know, I tend to blame the Obama Administration, and not Republicans, for the terribly slow pace of executive appointments and confirmations.  I should add: the administration, and also Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  As far as anyone has reported, the "problem" with Brainard has been some minor problems with her taxes.  Well, again as far as anyone has reported, that problem existed a year ago, and presumably hasn't changed.  If the Senate believed she should not have the position, then they should have acted then. 

This is not the case (again, as far as anyone has reported) of a nomination delayed because someone was trying to use a hold to bargain for some commitment from the nominee -- something which I think is actually a reasonable antimajoritarian device.  Nor is it even a nomination delayed because someone was using a hold to bargain for an unrelated matter, something that I think is more problematic, but still resolvable in most cases.  No, this was a case of the minority just disliking something about the nominee (Chuck Grassley apparently can't stand any tax problems at all from Treasury nominees).  In such cases, it seems to me that the Majority Leader should either bring the nomination to the floor, and see whether the minority has the votes or not...or, he should tell the White House to withdraw the nomination.  I don't see what purpose waiting can serve. 

And meanwhile, the White House can signal that the president is serious about it by (1) raising the issue in public, (2) raising the issue privately; (3) threatening recess appointments, and (4) making recess appointments.  For the first twelve months of the administration, Barack Obama and his administration did very little of options one and three, none of option four, and if they were doing option two then reporters missed it.  Moreover, by not even bothering to make nominations for many positions, Obama signaled instead that he didn't really care much about the executive branch departments and agencies. 

So while I think Chuck Grassley is wrong on the merits here, because I think presidents should be entitled to fill executive branch positions with the people of their choice unless there are very strong reasons against it, I don't blame him for the Lael Brainard fiasco; I blame the president and Senator Reid.  Perhaps the recent recess appointments and the threat of more are finally getting things moving, but I still don't have the impression that anyone in the White House cares very much about it.

(I suppose I should say that I have a bit of a rooting interest in this one.  Lael Brainard was a couple of years ahead of me in Wesleyan's College of Social Studies).

1 comment:

  1. Your impression is right. Obama's administration is slow in dealing with this problem. This is the irony of the change he promised at the beginning of his administration. The White House does not care that much. In fact, Obama is more concerned with giving Muslims opportunities for entrepreneurship rather than being concerned about unemployment of American citizens.

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