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'I'm here to do my job,' says senator who isn't doing his job

It's rare to see a powerful senator in the midst of a full-scale tantrum. It's also a sad spectacle.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.
After some vacillating that left his intentions unclear, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has made up his mind. When it comes to dealing with the Supreme Court vacancy, the far-right Iowan won't hold a hearing on President Obama's unnamed nominee; he will not support a vote on the nominee; and he's not even sure whether or not he'll accept a White House invitation to have a conversation about the nominee.
The ridiculous posture leaves Grassley in the unenviable position of becoming a laughingstock for the ages. As of yesterday, however, the Republican senator said he just doesn't care about history's judgment.

"Do you think I spend my days wondering about how Chuck Grassley will go down in history?" he told reporters on Wednesday, according to The Des Moines Register. "I don't care if I ever go down in history," added Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I'm here to do my job."

Those six words -- "I'm here to do my job" -- may be the most interesting Grassley has uttered in quite some time, because it suggests the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has grown confused about what his job actually is.
If Grassley were there to do his job, he'd fulfill his duties, honor the constitutional process, and start preparation for confirmation hearings. Not to put too fine a point on this, but on the modest list of responsibilities given to the Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, this ranks at the top.
Grassley, however, has somehow convinced himself that failing to do his job -- failing to even try -- is effectively the same thing as doing his job, rather than the opposite. It's almost as if the Iowan has quietly reached the conclusion that putting his party's interests above the nation's is his job.
Making matters slightly worse, The Hill reported yesterday on another way in which Grassley has decided to stop doing his job.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has vowed to block the nomination of a top health official over the Obama administration's handling of the Planned Parenthood controversy. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he plans to hold up the appointment of Dr. Mary Wakefield as Health and Human Services (HHS) deputy secretary until he receives an adequate response from the department about how it is probing claims against Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue program.

What's so bizarre about this is that Grassley doesn't seem to understand his own complaints. He's blocking confirmation of a qualified HHS official because he's annoyed HHS hasn't played along with the Republican crusade against Planned Parenthood.
Except, the Republican crusade against Planned Parenthood is absurd. There have already been 11 investigations into the health care organization's work, and no evidence of wrongdoing has emerged. There's nothing more to investigate -- and there's certainly no reason to block an unrelated HHS nominee.
What we're left with is a picture of a powerful senator in the midst of a tantrum. Even for this Congress, it's a sad spectacle.
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece and her work is unrelated to the fetal-tissue story.