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World's most embarrassing legislative body, cont'd

You know what would be good to have right now? Strong and seasoned leadership at the Transportation Security Administration. But the TSA hasn't had a director for about a year. Why? The dysfunctions of the Senate, that's why.

President Obama’s nominee to the post, Erroll G. Southers, has been blocked from confirmation by Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican. Mr. DeMint has asked Mr. Southers, a former F.B.I. agent, to clarify his position on whether T.S.A. workers have a right to be unionized. Mr. Southers is currently the assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence at Los Angeles International Airport and a well-known academic authority on terrorism risk analysis.

And did the attack mollify DeMint? Did it convince him of the error of his hold-happy ways? Not so much. The attempted attack, DeMint said, "is a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the T.S.A." Sigh.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 29, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
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I'm curious...why is it that I need to read Ezra's web-only blog to find out this information, as opposed to reading it in the dead-tree (and -revenue-model) edition?

Posted by: antontuffnell | December 29, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

On the other hand, if that's all DeMint wants, shouldn't Southers say he opposes unionization and get moving? Adding another monopoly to the mix in the form of a union can only make things worse.

Posted by: staticvars | December 29, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

This is further illustration of why Senate's outdated rules and customs need to be revisited. why did Dems allow 1 republican senator to block a critical appointment over an issue on which Dems agree (workers have the right to unionize) Why did Obama administration not make recess appointments of these people that a few republicans are blocking? Why has no member of the press asked Gibbs?

Posted by: ncaofnw | December 29, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Airline pilots, air traffic controllers, firefighters, and police officers are unionized. They are all highly trained and expected to take responsibility in life-and-death situations. Seems TSA should have the same right to unionize.

But no, I guess De Mint wants us to have a powerless, demoralized workforce manning the front lines against terrorism.

Posted by: econgrrl | December 29, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why Obama didn't do recess appointments, but I expect the rules are only going to change if the Democrats can make the restrictions and limitations apply only to Republicans . . . and I don't see that happening.

While there are all sorts of reasons to block many, many of Obama's appointments (speaking of rules, some sort of advise and consent ought to be added for czars), this seems to be an appointment which there is no real gain (political, ideological) in blocking.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 29, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I thought Ezra's purpose was to be a number crunching policy wonk with a lot of economic analysis of various policy options using charts and graphs to show the less wonkish reader what are the best available policy options for a nation or state to adopt.

It appears this blog has devolved now to a continual gripe on the structure of American government. Basically, it has traded economics for political science.

Obviously, Ezra can write whatever he wants, but I don't understand how "Economic and Domestic Policy, and Lots of it" is now accurate.

Posted by: lancediverson | December 29, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Lancediverson: Wouldn't you agree that the structure of American government has everything to do with "policy" per se and economic and domestic policy in particular?

Posted by: onewing1 | December 29, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

The attempted attack occurred during a period of non-unionized TSA employees (I'm guessing), which means the only way to prevent terrorist attacks is to UNIONIZE NOW!!!111!!! And outlaw underpants.

Posted by: chines1 | December 29, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Senator Dimwit, er DeMint: I'd feel much safer traveling if I knew that the security staff at airports were more likely to be underpaid, overworked, and have fewer reasons to appreciate their jobs and want to do good work. Yep, what a relief.

Posted by: onewing1 | December 29, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, Ezra can write whatever he wants, but I don't understand how "Economic and Domestic Policy, and Lots of it" is now accurate.

Probably want to consult Websters before putting on the +3 Pants of Grousing...

Posted by: antontuffnell | December 29, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Onewing1: My belief is that the structure of government arguments can very quickly devolve into partisan hackery.

Liberal hacks tend to believe that action at the federal level is important so American governmental structure must be cleared of all roadblocks to action. Conservative hacks view gridlock as an essential means of a safe and stable society based on continuity of law and governance.

What is most lacking partisan hackery is numbers from thorough analysis. While economic analysis is much more difficult that grousing about the structure of the US Senate, it can actually add something to the conversation of what our leaders should do as we progress this nation forward out of a very bad situation.

Complaining about the Senate doesn't create an informed society and leadership... but it is easy.

Posted by: lancediverson | December 29, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

To those opposed to the TSA agents being unionized, I guess you don't want police officers unionized as well? I lived in NYC for quite a few years and the police and fire department are unionized. I can't remember once they cops walking off the job - matter of fact it is illegal for the cops, firemen and transit workers in NYC to walk off the job. The last time the transit workers in NY walked off the job, they were hit with astounding fines that put an end to their adventure rather quickly. The stupidity of the Republicans just confound me.

Posted by: ATLGuy | December 30, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to hear Ezra explain how confirmation of the TSA head would have affected the screening of the bomber in Nigeria or Amsterdam?

Posted by: tomtildrum | December 30, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

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