Held Hostage: Judicial Nominee Adalberto Jose Jordan

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Rand Paul wants to send a message to his colleagues about U.S. policy toward Egypt policy, but he's doing it by adding one wrong to another.

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Like millions of other Americans, Republican Senator Rand Paul is upset that the United States isn't currently doing more (more publicly, that is) to protest Egypt's recent detention of 19 Americans, non-governmental workers who stand accused of illegally receiving foreign funding. Unlike those other millions, however, Paul can do something about it. So how is the junior senator from Kentucky protesting Egypt's decision to prosecute the 19?

He decided to hold a hostage of his own: judicial nominee Adalberto Jose Jordan, a smart, talented, qualified Cuban-American nominee who is slotted to join the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Paul-induced drama won't last long -- it should be resolved by Wednesday at the latest -- but it's a tidy example of how and why recent polls reveal that the approval rating for our federal legislators is at an all-time low.

Paul wants to send a message to his colleagues about Egypt and American foreign policy -- and he's doing it by adding one wrong on top of another. Not only is the senator blocking Jordan's nomination for no legitimate reason, a choice which deprives the 11th Circuit of the judge it needs, in doing so he's also evidently delaying debate and consideration of jobs-related legislation. How dysfunctional is that quinella?  

This shouldn't be a close call. Last October, Jordan's nomination sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. On Monday, with Florida's Marco Rubio leading the way, the Senate voted 89-5 to end debate on his nomination. Jordan should be a confirmed judge today -- the first Cuban-American ever to serve on the federal appeals court that services Florida. But he's not. Here's how Roll Call described what happened:

The Senate voted 89 to 5 to end debate on Jordan's nomination and now the Senate must wait 30 hours before voting to confirm Jordan, as Paul has made it known that he would object to anyone seeking to shorten the post-cloture period. Senate Democratic leadership aides said talks with Paul are ongoing in an effort to work out a deal. But if no agreement is reached, the vote would take place Wednesday morning, forcing the Senate to waste up to two days and halting progress on a surface transportation bill currently on the floor.

In many ways, Jordan has had it better than scores of President Obama's judicial nominees. At least he got a hearing before the Judiciary Committee; at least the full Senate took up his nomination. Compared to, say, Arvo Mikkanen, whose nomination has languished for over a year now because of Senator Tom Coburn, Jordan raced through the process. He was nominated only in August. Six months from soup to nuts? That's light speed for this Senate.

But the story of Rand Paul and Adalberto Jordan -- the foot-stomping by an elected official, the incoherent rationale, the constitutional paralysis -- helps illustrate how and why Congress does so little of the work the American people expect it to do. This is governmental gridlock at its most fundamental and destructive level; a legislature held hostage by pique. By my reckoning, and yours I'll bet, the Senate doesn't have two days to waste on stunts like this.

Image: Reuters

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Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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