In light of the recent focus on counter-terrorism and national security, common sense suggests the Senate would want to quickly confirm Adam Szubin to serve as the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes.
As the Huffington Post recently reported, we’re talking about a job that “involves tracking terrorists to prevent them from raising money on the black market and elsewhere.” Szubin is extremely well qualified; he’s worked on blocking terrorist financing in previous administrations; and he enjoys broad, bipartisan support in the Senate.
And yet, the Senate isn’t voting on his nomination. Politico reported overnight that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has grown impatient with mindless Republican obstructionism and tried to end this farce yesterday.
A frustrated Brown took to the Senate floor Wednesday to force a confirmation vote on Szubin and a host of other nominees stuck in his committee. The panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, swiftly objected to each of Brown’s attempts.“That’s a policy decision,” Shelby said Wednesday of the nomination of Szubin, whom Shelby called “eminently qualified” during his confirmation hearing in September. “You know, he’s probably a nice guy in all this. But there is a lot of dissent in our caucus on that.”Asked whether Szubin could move through his committee soon, Shelby responded: “We’re not going to vote now. We’re going home for Christmas.”
It’s not altogether clear what in the world Shelby was talking about. When he says Szubin is “probably a nice guy in all this,” it’s unclear what “this” refers to. When the senator added there’s “dissent in our caucus on that,” he didn’t say what “that” meant.
But even if we look past the ambiguity, the end result is the same: an uncontroversial, perfectly qualified counter-terrorism nominee is being delayed – without explanation – apparently because Republicans don’t like President Obama.
And while that may seem ridiculous – because it is – it’s important to understand that Szubin is hardly the only one.
The same Politico report explained, “Nineteen potential judges, a half-dozen ambassadors, a terrorism financing specialist and two high-ranking State Department nominees are awaiting confirmation votes on the Senate floor, a backlog that has this GOP-led Senate on track for the lowest number of confirmations in 30 years. The Senate Banking Committee hasn’t moved on a single nominee all year.”
The Banking Committee, by the way, is led by Alabama’s Richard Shelby – the one who’s praised Adam Szubin, but who also refuses to let the Senate confirm Adam Szubin.
The story on judicial nominees is every bit as exasperating. The Huffington Post reported this week on Luis Felipe Restrepo, who, for reasons no one can defend, has “endured nearly every type of Senate delay a judicial nominee could endure.”
The Senate should be voting Monday to confirm Restrepo to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Senators typically vote on nominees in the order in which they were nominated, and Restrepo is first in line of any district or circuit court nominee. Instead, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) passed him over and teed up a vote on the next person in line, Travis McDonough, a Tennessee district court nominee.Restrepo has been waiting his turn for a vote since he was nominated in November 2014. His nomination didn’t go anywhere last year, so President Barack Obama renominated him in January. Restrepo waited five months before he even got a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, thanks to his own state’s senator, Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), holding him up.After his June hearing, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delayed the vote for another month, for no real reason. The committee finally voted to move Restrepo forward in July, unanimously, and he’s been waiting in line for a confirmation vote by the full Senate ever since.
The court seat Restrepo is supposed to fill has been vacant for nearly 900 days. No, that’s not a typo, and yes, it’s contributed to a “judicial emergency” on the 3rd Circuit, with a case backlog getting worse.
Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein recently explained, “It’s a Senate engaged in pure partisan harassment of Obama, and indifferent to the smooth functioning of government.”
When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was promoted to his current post, he promised Americans we’d see a new, different kind of chamber. Nearly a year later, I suppose he was correct – because the Senate is now far worse.