We talked last week about the prospects for a heated Senate showdown. President Obama's decision to make some recess appointments led Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah to threaten a new level of obstructionism, which could have been ugly, even by 2012 standards: he was prepared to block every nominee from receiving a confirmation vote, regardless of merit or bipartisan support, for the indefinite future.
How'd that work out for the far-right senator? Not especially well.
The "heck no" caucus in the Senate fizzled in its first test. [...][F]rom the start, it was clear many Republicans were squeamish about such a blanket tactic, and in their first engagement with the enemy on Thursday, the revenge seekers lost. Cathy Ann Bencivengo, nominated to be a United States district judge for the Southern District of California, was confirmed, 90 to 6.
Here's the roll call on the Bencivengo. Lee managed to find only five GOP colleagues willing to go along with his scheme: Sens. Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
The Republican apoplexy in the immediate aftermath of the recess appointments appears to have petered out with surprising speed.
Jonathan Bernstein, who predicted this outcome, added that the White House's congressional liaison office should have had the president "threatening to use and then using the recess appointment power right from the beginning," since the fear of partisan warfare on the Senate appears to have been exaggerated.
It's a fair point, and it's one the West Wing will likely keep in mind as the year progresses.