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When 'partisan harassment' of Obama goes too far

Obama has nominated a qualified official to disrupt terrorist financing. The nominee faces no opposition. So why are Republicans blocking him?
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013.
In the wake of the recent violence in Paris, there's been quite a bit of discussion, in the United States and elsewhere, about officials using every available tool to combat terrorism. One of the least controversial measures involves attacking terrorist networks' finances.
With that in mind, it matters a great deal that President Obama has nominated Adam Szubin to serve as the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes. As the Huffington Post reported last week, this specific job "involves tracking terrorists to prevent them from raising money on the black market and elsewhere."
The good news is, Szubin enjoys bipartisan support, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has praised his past work in taking on terrorist financing in previous administrations.
The bad news is, Szubin's nomination has been pending since mid-April -- over 200 days ago -- and the Senate Republican leadership hasn't bothered to bring the nomination to the floor for a vote, despite the fact that he faces no real opposition.
Bloomberg's Jonathan Bernstein noted yesterday that this fits into a pattern of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) instituting a "roadblock" against President Obama's nominations in ways with no modern precedent from either party.

It’s a Senate engaged in pure partisan harassment of Obama, and indifferent to the smooth functioning of government. Agencies can’t function at their best without confirmed presidential picks in place. [...] We’ll never know what the specific consequences are of not filling crucial positions. For example, if the Treasury Department were fully staffed, would it be able to stop money flowing to terrorists to finance a particular attack? It’s grossly irresponsible of McConnell and his colleagues to keep government from doing what they say it should do: operate efficiently and protect its citizens.

We've seen plenty of examples of Republicans balking at qualified Obama nominees for partisan or ideological reasons, but that doesn't apply in this case, since Szubin doesn't seem to have any actual Senate critics. McConnell hasn't even tried to justify the delay, because "we slow-walk every Obama nominee, regardless of merit" seems ridiculous when spoken aloud.
It's worth emphasizing, as the Huffington Post's piece explained, 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."

The Senate is on vacation again this week. The earliest Szubin's nomination could be considered is Monday.