The Republican obstruction strategy of “stall and block” is coming back to haunt Republicans in many ways, not the least of which is the country’s realization that we have no Surgeon General as we face the Ebola crisis.
But of course, politicians don’t like to take responsibility for their tactics, so the Republicans’ new talking point to get around taking responsibility for their obstruction of President Obama, his entire administration and indeed, our entire federal government, is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) could call for a vote any time to confirm the nomination for the Surgeon General.
But that’s not true.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) put a hold on the November 2013 nomination after the NRA objected to the nominee. Krystal Ball and Anne Thompson reported for MSNBC:
Murthy’s nomination has been held up by Republicans and a few red state Democrats due to this surprisingly controversial stance: He believes that guns can impact your health. Well, to be fair, this conservative coalition is not troubled by his stance, so much as they are fearful of the NRA, which decided to try to scuttle Murthy’s confirmation. The NRA wrote a strongly worded letter, Rand Paul put a hold on the nomination, and Red State Democrats begged Harry Reid to not force them to vote. It’s funny that the strongly worded letters of ordinary citizens don’t seem to have quite the same effect.
A senator can use a procedural move called a hold to prevent a motion from reaching a vote. The hold can be a secret hold or done publicly on the floor. So it doesn’t matter that red state Democrats are afraid of the NRA (although the NRA’s hold over our supposed representatives is sickening). A hold stops a vote from coming to the floor anyway, so this one is on Rand Paul.
Unbeknownst to most of the public, the Republicans have been using the hold/secret hold to obstruct a record number of Obama’s nominees. See, it’s not just jobs bills/legislation that they obstruct. It’s a whole shock and awe strategy implemented by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is on record admitting that obstructing everything Obama did would be the GOP plan for his entire presidency.
In May of 2010, I observed:
There’s a disturbing trend in the Senate under President Obama, wherein Republicans are abusing secret holds in order to stall and block over 96 nominees of the President’s. These nominees range from federal court nominees to executive agencies, like the TSA -an agency whose current lack of leadership puts our lives at risk every day, as evidenced by the Christmas bomber and the no-fly list failure with the Times Square bomber.
Dozens of these nominees have sailed through committee hearings only to be brought to halt on the Senate floor through the use of what are called Secret Holds, which allow any senator to block any nominee at any time for any reason — anonymously. A new rule meant to lift the secrecy has had little effect.
At that time, Senator Clair McCaskill (D-MO) called the Republicans out on their abuse of procedural rules, saying Republicans were using a “stall and block” tactic. “This is called stall and block, stall and block, stall and block, stall and block — and fine, but own it!” McCaskill said. “If you’re gonna stall and block, let’s see who you are.”
She warned them that they would own it, and yet here they are, blaming Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, as if he’s just refusing to call a vote because he doesn’t want his own party’s administration to function. Back then, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) called the unprecedented obstruction, “… an attack on this administration to do its constitutional duty.”
But isn’t that just perfect? After all, Republicans are planning to run on Ebola now that Obamacare is such a success, and they couldn’t very well run on fear if they weren’t obstructing the President’s administration. This way they can blame Obama for the results of their obstruction, and no one is the wiser. Vote Republican, because otherwise they’ll terrorize the country and muck up government so much you’ll just give in out of exhaustion. Which seems like a plausible response until you remember how they handle government (see Katrina).
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.