My friends, I give you Alabama's Senator Richard Shelby (via TPM):
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put an extraordinary "blanket hold" on at least 70 nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, according to multiple reports this evening. The hold means no nominations can move forward unless Senate Democrats can secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold.
How many nominations is Shelby holding? All of them. And why?
According to the report, Shelby is holding Obama's nominees hostage until a pair of lucrative programs that would send billions in taxpayer dollars to his home state get back on track. The two programs Shelby wants to move forward or else:
- A $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers. From CongressDaily: "Northrop/EADS team would build the planes in Mobile, Ala., but has threatened to pull out of the competition unless the Air Force makes changes to a draft request for proposals." Federal Times offers more details on the tanker deal, and also confirms its connection to the hold.
- An improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI. From CongressDaily: "[Shelby] is frustrated that the Obama administration won't build" the center, which Shelby earmarked $45 million for in 2008. The center is due to be based "at the Army's Redstone Arsenal."
Surely, though, the Democrats were just as bad. Right?
A San Diego State University professor and Congressional expert told the Mobile paper "he knew of no previous use of a blanket hold" in recent history.
While Shelby dances the Obstructionism Tango (never before danced so brazenly), I have a few questions.
Will the same people who clutch their pearls and swoon over the federal deficit somehow find a way to defend this? How about the people who were up in arms about the (admittedly appalling) deal Ben Nelson struck to support health care reform? Will they find a way to somehow justify Shelby's legislative extortion?
And will either Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins or (hey... hope springs eternal) Scott Brown vote with the Democrats to end this disgrace? Time will tell, I suppose.
Update: Steve Benen has similar thoughts, but I posted mine first.