When it comes to talking about national security, congressional Republicans are ready and willing. When it comes to doing actual work, however, the GOP lawmakers who have all kinds of things to say seem to struggle with follow-through.
Yesterday, for example, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) asked for unanimous consent to approve an important counter-terrorism nominee, who's been awaiting a confirmation vote for months without explanation. As The Hill reported, it didn't go well.
Shaheen ... tried to get consent to confirm Adam Szubin to be an under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes for the Treasury Department. Democrats have repeatedly pointed to Szubin's nomination to criticize Republicans for holding up national security nominations. [Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah], however, objected to Shaheen's request on behalf of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who chairs the Banking Committee. Shaheen said that while Shelby was in Washington on Wednesday, "it's disappointing that he's not on the floor to talk about what his objections to Adam Szubin are."
Of course, as Shaheen knows, it wouldn't much matter if Shelby were on the floor to explain his objections, because he can't. The Alabama Republican can't admit what's plainly true: Shelby opposes President Obama's nominee because he's President Obama's nominee.
As regular readers may recall, Szubin was nominated for a job that involves “tracking terrorists to prevent them from raising money on the black market and elsewhere.” He’s extremely well qualified; he’s worked on blocking terrorist financing in previous administrations; and he enjoys broad, bipartisan support in the Senate.
But senators in the GOP majority decided that President Obama wants Szubin to work on disrupting terrorist financing, which means he can’t get a confirmation vote – because anything Obama wants must be rejected, no matter the consequences.
Szubin, who has no critics in either party, was first nominated in mid-April of last year. Given his broad support and the importance of the issue, this should have been one of the year’s easiest votes. And yet, Republicans, for reasons even they can’t explain, prefer to keep him waiting, indefinitely, simply as a way of annoying the White House.
It’s worth emphasizing, as the Huffington Post has reported, that the work is still getting done at Treasury, though that doesn’t make the Senate GOP’s ridiculous antics any better.
Szubin is currently serving in the Treasury post in an acting role, so it’s not like nobody is doing that job. But a Treasury spokesman explained why the delays on Szubin’s confirmation hurt his ability to do his job to the fullest extent.“When the Senate confirms a senior administration official, especially one who oversees critical national security matters, it sends an important and powerful signal to our partners and the rest of the world,” said the spokesman. “Leaving [Szubin] to serve in an acting role would undermine his influence in our efforts to counter terrorism financing and press for tough sanctions measures against Iran’s malign activities and other security threats.”He added: “This mission is too important right now for us to have anything less than our best person with the full backing of the U.S. Congress out leading the charge.”
Something to keep in mind the next time GOP lawmakers start posturing about how important they think national security is.