Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Still No Fed Nominees

Just a quick note about the Federal Reserve meeting today and tomorrow: yes, there are still two empty seats at the table, and yes, we've gone yet another month without Barack Obama nominating anyone.

No, it's not entirely Obama's fault -- after the Peter Diamond fiasco, I'm sure it's a lot harder to find someone willing to have her name submitted, putting her life in limbo for months and then perhaps never advancing to a vote. And to the extent that Obama is consulting with Republicans before naming someone in order to avoid disaster, that's a good thing.  Clearly, the main story here is GOP obstruction -- and part of Obama's failure is that he hasn't made that extraordinary obstruction a big story.

Obama has had a long time to figure out a response to that obstruction, and while there are some successes, for the most part he's just not getting it done. Still no Fed nominees? Absolutely awful.


  1. Boy it would have been nice if the Constitution allowed the President to appoint nominees on a provisional basis when Congress is not in session and to declare Congress in recess if the two houses disagree about when to recess....

  2. It is odd that the GOP has been so successful at blocking appointments.

    I would think that either the administration would get sick of it and do mass recess appointments. Or that the Democratic majority in the Senate would get sick of it force a rules change.

    The minority in one house of one branch of the government is allowed to cripple the two other branches (executive and judicial) by refusing to allow votes to take place on appointments. The minority has this power!

    I'm not surprised that Obama can't get the American people worked up about it. It's too inside baseball. But I'm am surprised they don't just go ahead and steamroll the GOP.

  3. No ability for Obama to steamroll anybody. The Left isn't backing Obama's nominees, so they'll not go through. The Left didn't back Porkulus II, so it didn't go through either.

    That's what happens, to weak presidents. Oh sure, they'll offer him a fig leaf, but I think we all know better, don't we? This is a plain blog about politics, afterall.

  4. @ Anonyous

    What do you mean 'the "the Left" isn't backing Obama's nominees'? A majority of Democrats in the Senate are prepared to vote for them.

    Would a write-in campaign by MoveOn sway GOP Senators somehow?

  5. A majority of Democrats in the Senate are prepared to vote for them.


    You sure? I'm not. ;-)

    Like I say, as often happens in the Senate, the Left is hiding behind the "filibuster", and providing a fig leaf for poor Obama, yes, and also seeking and preserving some political avenue of attack against the evil obstructionists (see Obama's Porkulus II, which the Left also didn't support, even though they maneuvered a way to vote on the evil R's' friends, the evil millionaires, which was a mundane but workmanlike political move, and I tip my hat to them, but that bill wasn't gonna pass in a million years.).

    But saying all that doesn't imply that the Left WANTS Obama's nominees, nor that they don't foresee political attacks coming their way over an affirmative vote for an Obama nominee. This isn't a time for a vulnerable senator to be incautious.

    The default position in the US Senate is to do nothing, oftentimes. Yes, fierce partisans are always convinced that their evil enemies are stymieing them, but look a little closer and you'll see it's your "friends" who aren't supporting this weak president. They have good reason for this behavior. They have nice, cushy jobs, and they want to keep them.

  6. If you look closely you'll see that 60 votes are required to advance legislation or nomination in the Senate.

    If your point is that the majority is hiding behind those rules rather then changing them, then I guess I agree with you.

    There are a few Senators that aren't reliable Democratic votes. But you seem be referring to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson as "The Left"... which I just find confusing.

  7. swain,

    Of course not. The majority of Dems clearly would be happy to vote for the exec branch nominees and the judges. Indeed, for most of the nominees it's probably unanimous on the Dem side.

    Now, at least some Dems clearly have a stronger preference for keeping the status quo rules than they do for changing them in order to be able to confirm those nominees. That doesn't mean they don't want to cast those votes.

    It's true that a minor attraction of the current rules is that they can duck some votes, although the main reasons are (1) that they preserve the influence of individual Senators and (2) they're good for playing defense when the other party is in charge.

    But at any rate: the liberal Senators have, quite naturally, been very vocal in favor of liberal nominees -- it makes no sense at all that they would vocally support someone they secretly wanted to avoid voting for, since the two actions have the same electoral (potential) effect.

  8. @Janathan Bernstein

    Apologies. My 3:54 post was a response to the "Anonymous" post that preceded it.

    I'm mostly agreeing with you. Regarding:

    "(1) that they preserve the influence of individual Senators and (
    2) they're good for playing defense when the other party is in charge."

    I agree that this seems to be their motivation. I just find it shocking.

    Here they've all rising to the level of US Senator. But now they are in this broken institution. Even when they are in the majority they can't pass legislation. They can't even bring legislation up for debate! And they can't approve judicial or executive nominations.

    They are "preserving their influence" by abiding by self-selected rules that insure they can influence nothing at all.

  9. "...it makes no sense at all that they would vocally support someone they secretly wanted to avoid voting for..."


    No? Actually, it makes perfect political sense... surprised you'd see it otherwise.

    Porkulus II wasn't gonna get through that lefty Senate... no chance. Heck, the Left's opposition BEGGED for a straight up vote on it, and the Left broke the filibuster to keep that vote from happening. No matter what they say, the Left hates Obama's handiwork same as everybody else, but they found a way to hand him the fig leaf, and keep him from another 97-0 shellacking, like the Obama budget last Spring.

    But make no mistake, their voices and their true thoughts are not congruent with their actions. That's politics.

    It ain't your evil Faux News enemies blocking Obama, lefties. It's your "friends".

    You think Claire and the Nelson boys want any parts of voting on anything controversial right now? Dream on. And there are 8-10 other lefties in the same boat with them. They'll yammer on to make lefty legs tingle, but they want to get reelected, so they'll settle for tingled legs and doing nothing. That's the safest path for them. That's politics.

  10. I think it is incredible that no one is even nominated when the economy is fragile and that will be the key factor in the election. Obama and the Senate Dems obviously don't think it is a priority.

    This also appears to be the view of most liberal pundits/econ bloggers I read. They will frequently write passionately about the poor state of the economy and how anyone would cares about it should favor passing a stimulus bill. The federal reserve can inject far more stimulus into the economy and do it faster then Congress. A cynic would claim this shows liberals/dems care more about rewarding their favorite groups (public employees and green energy companies) then they care about boosting the economy.

  11. Ron,

    Yeah, I realized you were responding to him; sorry if I was unclear.

    I don't know...there are strong incentives for them to resist a strong majority-party rules Senate. And it's not easy to find a stable midpoint. Don't forget; they also *did* get a lot done in the 111th, so that probably worked against them moving to reform (as did, no doubt, that so many of them were on the record the other way from when they were in the minority!).

    In the unlikely event that Obama wins reelection and the Dems add to their majority, I'd expect some reforms. Of course, I also think it's likely we'll have Senate reform if the Republicans win unified control.

  12. Wanna bet? ;-)

    In January 2013, the United State Senate will vote on Senate rules for the coming term. The existing rules will be whooped through, without the slightest change in jot or tittle, even if 15 raving Tea Partyers are newly elected to the body.

    You lefties actually think your lefty "friends" are listening to you? Dream on. The old order is still the old order, and they like them rules, baby. Now, good government might call for the Left to join with those raving Tea Partyers, and change those rules, but as I say, I'll take all bets that those lefties won't do that. They'll be part of the crowd whooping through those existing rules.

  13. If the GOP or Democrats control both houses and the presidency in 2013, it’ll be interesting to see if there is rules reform in the Senate. I suspect (fear) there will not be any. And more divided government in 2013 (which seems very likely) reduces the likelihood of change even further.

    Going back to the original topic of this post, I always cringe when I read sentences like this (from people who should know better):

    “Obama has had a long time to figure out a response to that obstruction, and while there are some successes, for the most part he's just not getting it done.”

    If there was no supermajority requirement those Fed nominations would have been made and confirmed long ago. With the supermajority requirement in place there’s nothing (other than a recess appointment - which would require execute override of more obscure legislative procedure) Obama can do. No amount of finger-wagging by Obama is going to convince McConnell he wants to allow Obama agenda to proceed.

    Look at what’s going on with Obama’s jobs bills. Obama IS on a publicity tour. The bill IS very popular. But the GOP is still blocking votes on in the Senate. And why bother? The GOP can just ignore it in the House. The bill was always DOA (unless GOP decides it wants to help pass a jobs bill).

    They are blocking to jobs bills in the Senate to defend the now-sacred position that no significant legislation should be allowed to be debated in the US Senate.

  14. But it's not like legislation -- Obama does have extra weapons when it comes to exec branch nominations. First of all, he could have made it a priority during the 111th Congress and didn't. Second, he could now be using or at least threatening recess appointments, and he could also push Reid to threaten Senate reform. If he doesn't do those things, he deserves to be called on it.

  15. "he could now be using or at least threatening recess appointments, and he could also push Reid to threaten Senate reform. If he doesn't do those things, he deserves to be called on it."

    Ok. I'm sold. You're right to call him out. Obama should (and could) be pushing harder on appointments.

  16. Obama should (and could) be pushing harder on appointments.

    And this is where you're missing the point, because to to what you ask, Obama would have to push hard against his "friends".

    The Senate Left put down Porkulus II, just as they put down Obama's budget 97-0 last Spring, just as they're keeping out any controversial appointments right now. Obama's fight is with his "friends", who are anxious to keep their jobs. Fine if he loses his, but they'd all like to stick around Washington, thank you very much. You don't do that by voting for Porkulus II, and supporting anything like a controversial nominee. Not in this environment.

    The "filibuster" is a convenient tool to manipulate the politics surrounding that base butt-covering process, and that's why the Senate Left will whoop through the existing rules in January 2013. They like them. And they know you lefties are gonna vote for them no matter what they do, so no worries on that score.


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