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The world's most embarrassing legislative body


I've been focusing on the filibuster today, but Senate "holds" are almost as pernicious. For instance:

Of the 200 or so Obama nominations pending, some 75 have gotten through committee but were being held up for various reasons in the Senate, administration officials and congressional staff members said. During their last gasps of official business after the health-care vote on Thursday morning, senators cleared 35 nominees by unanimous consent — far short of the 60 that administration officials had been hoping to get through by the end of the year.

One of those finally approved was Miriam Sapiro, who had become the Obama administration’s prime example of stalled nominations since being chosen in April to be a deputy U.S. trade representative. Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, put a hold on the confirmation of Sapiro, an Internet policy consultant, to try to pressure the trade representative’s office to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Canada over a law that bans cigarettes with candy flavors.

The Senate has jurisdiction over a lot of things that most of its members don't care about very much. The deputy U.S. trade representative, for instance. And when senators have that much individual power, they can take a strong stand on things other senators don't care about in order to extract concessions on something they themselves do care about. And why would the other senators stop them? They like having that power, too. And so Sapiro's nomination stalled for nine months -- and the position went unfilled -- because Bunning wanted to sell more -- sigh -- candy-flavored cigarettes.

Photo credit: Linda Davidson/The Washington Post

By Ezra Klein  |  December 28, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Filibustering the government itself
Next: Tab dump


to make a Jim Bunning joke, for the Senators, it's a perfect game.

Posted by: bdballard | December 28, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

It takes a determination to maintain the lie to put up the face of Bunning and not Baucus. Whether Baucus has of late been drunk, or for some cognitive reason can no longer speak clearly, his ranting and repetitive harangues on the senate floor are a disgrace. As is his personal conduct, using his position to advance his girlfriend. He is at the moment the most scandalous senator.

Posted by: truck1 | December 29, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

In fairness to Bunning, clove cigarettes are pretty good.

Posted by: constans | December 29, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

The world's most embarrassing?

Worse than, oh, say, Maryland's? Or Russia's? Or many, many, many, many others? Not quite. Bad, yes. Superlative, no.

Posted by: ostap666 | December 29, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

The prob with this Health Care bill is it does not have the support of the people, if it did some republicans would have joined in and pass it. But they and some dems see that the people are against it. Who really wants uncle sam as his doctor. But health reforn could have passed if the dems would have stuck to fixing whats wrong instead of entitlement building. Reform the Ins cos, slow down the malpratice lawyers, and build a high risk pool for the uninsured and pre-existings and force insurance cos to particpate, like auto ins, with subsidies from the gov. BUT no, the dems want to build a monument to Obama,thats why the senate can't pass a bill with a mojority!!

Posted by: JonGalt | December 29, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

*build a high risk pool for the uninsured and pre-existings and force insurance cos to particpate, like auto ins, with subsidies from the gov.*

I see you have been paying absolutely no attention to the health care bill and instead decided to mindlessly repeat whatever talking points you were fed by your relatives over Christmas. Thanks for playing.

Posted by: constans | December 29, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

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