More From Our Dysfunctional Senate–Aaron Sorkin Strikes Again

And Aaron Sorkin Strikes again.  In the West Wing episode entitled “The Constituency of One” Conservative Senator Carrick (Tom Skerritt), a Democrat from Idaho places a hold on a backlog of military promotions preventing a vote on their promotions so he can secure an expensive but faulty missile launcher to be built in his home state.  In the fictional Senate of the West Wing, one Senator, acting alone, could block the approval of military promotions for dozens of officers.  If only this just occurred in fiction.

Last week, I wrote about how a minority of senators, representing a smaller % of the population than their voting power in the Senate, has prevented the passage of virtually all of President Obama’s agenda.  I decried it as tyranny of the minority–there a minority of about 40 senators.  But that is not the worst of it.  When it comes to voting on Presidential nominees, ONE senator can place a hold on that nominee.  Without the support of 60 Senators, the Senate cannot even vote for confirmation of that nominee.

It is being reported that Alabama Senator Richard Shelby (R)  has thrown the Senatorial equivalent of a temper tantrum until two pork projects worth billions of dollars to his home state are moved forward.  In retaliation he has decided to place a hold on ALL 70 of Obama’s nominees currently on the Senate Calendar.  And this hold is not response to any individual’s qualification or because they did not answer questions from the Senator.  Rather, he has placed a hold on all of them because the Obama administration has decided it did not want to go through with two pork projects in his home state.

So there we have it folks.  A Senator from a relatively small southern state has thrown a Senatorial temper tantrum because someone took his cookies away.  It is no wonder that Congress is held in such high esteem.  Needless to say, there is nothing in the Constitution that gives Senators this power.

Update:  And here is what Senator Shelby said in 2005 with respect to confirming judicial nominees (who have lifetime tenure):

As a U.S. Senator, I believe that the review of judicial nominations is one of the most important responsibilities of the Senate, and I firmly believe that each of the President’s nominees should be afforded a straight up-or-down vote. I do not think that any of us want to operate in an environment where federal judicial nominees must receive 60 votes in order to be confirmed. To that end I firmly support changing the Senate rules to require that a simple majority be necessary to confirm all judicial nominees, thus ending the continuous filibuster of them.

And now he blocking all nominees from an up or down vote, not just those who have lifetime tenure.  He is not blocking it with the support of 40 Senators, but by himself.


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