It's been just over two weeks since Senator Mitch McConnell, on his own, derailed the planned Senate confirmation of 80-plus federal nominees. This left U.S. embassies vacant and the US embarrassed in those countries, scores of nominees and their families preparing to move but in limbo, various agencies without their Inspector General or Deputy Director -- and all because, as McConnell freely said on the Senate floor, he objected to exactly one of the nominations. This nominee, perversely, is unlike most of the others already in his job (Craig Becker, of the National Labor Relations Board), since Barack Obama had given him a recess appointment. McConnell wanted to register his retroactive unhappiness with Becker's labor-union background by holding up the rest of the seemingly agreed-on nominees.
This is an insane way to do the nation's business. (I write this having spent the day hearing in Beijing about new energy-efficiency and infrastructure projects here -- a setting that concentrates the mind. Yes, yes, despite all of China's own problems, of governance and otherwise.) If you check out the Senate's current "executive calendar" you see that the number of pending nominations -- those already vetted and approved by committee -- continues to back up . The U.S. Constitution reflected a complex balance of interests -- majority v. minority, big state v. small, countryside v. city, in those days free states v. slave states. It is inconceivable that the Founders intended what Senate custom and "comity" have recently been warped into: open-ended one-man obstructionism, via "holds" and "objections" to unanimous consent.