It's now been a full year since President Obama nominated Adam Szubin to be an under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes for the Treasury Department. The title is obviously a mouthful, but 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, he can't get confirmed.
For months, Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) blocked Szubin because Shelby faced a primary fight in Alabama and he was too afraid to do much of anything in the way of actual work.
Finally, last month, the committee agreed to advance Szubin's nomination with bipartisan backing, raising hopes that this nonsense would finally end. Alas, it continues. The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday:
A Republican senator on Wednesday blocked an effort to confirm President Barack Obama's nominee for a key Treasury post responsible for leading the battle against terrorism and financial crimes. The president nominated Adam Szubin a year ago, but his nomination has languished, caught up in Senate politics. Szubin, who has served under both Obama and predecessor George W. Bush, has worked in the anti-terror job in an acting capacity. Democrats tried to secure a vote on Wednesday, but Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., objected, citing the possibility that the Obama administration would ease financial restrictions that prohibit U.S. dollars from being used in transactions with Iran.
Evidently, the right-wing Arkansan believes the White House may, at some point in the future, ease those restrictions, so Cotton decided to block a nominee who works on preventing terrorist financing, as if this somehow made sense.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was the senator who tried to advance Szubin's nomination yesterday -- before Cotton objected for reasons that make sense only to Cotton -- and he argued that Republicans are needlessly playing politics with national security for no apparent reason.
And while that's certainly true, at least for now, GOP senators don't appear to care.
The timing of all of this is a bit ironic. Just this week, on the one-year anniversary of Szubin's nomination, Cotton delivered the Republican Party's official weekly address in which he complained that President Obama wants Americans to be complacent about the terrorist threat. As the GOP senator put it, Obama prefers that the public "relax," rather than keep the dangers posed by terrorists foremost in our minds.
Just a few days later, given the opportunity to confirm a qualified counter-terrorism official, Cotton balked.
When it comes to talking about national security, congressional Republicans are ready and willing. When it comes to doing actual work, however, GOP lawmakers are routinely reluctant to follow through.
Postscript: 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 Tom Cotton and his colleagues start posturing about how important they think national security is.