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How holds make it impossible to fire Tim Geithner (or anyone else)


When it comes to absurd Senate customs, the filibuster isn't even the worst of the lot. That honor goes to holds, which, like the filibuster, are being used with a new ferocity. Annie Lowrey tallied up the numbers and found that "one year into the Bush administration, there were 70 appointees awaiting confirmation. One year into the Obama administration, there are 177."

A little-noticed side effect of holds is that they reduce government accountability. There are 20 Treasury nominees awaiting confirmation. And that's amidst the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Consider the implications of that, and not just in the performance of the Treasury Department. Many people -- both Democrats and Republicans -- want Obama to fire Geithner, or some of the people who work for him. But the chance of that happening is approximately zero so long as Obama can't be confident in his ability to smoothly fill that position. If you can't hire new people, then you can't get rid of old people.

For a full list of held administration appointees, head here.

Photo credit: By Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  January 19, 2010; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  Obama administration , Senate  
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Next: What jerks understand


So why aren't we hearing about this each and every day on newscasts and in the newspapers? Why aren't the Democrats using the media as the Republicans would?

Any and all responses to comments about the inefficiency of public agencies should include a line about the number of appointees held captive Congress.

Posted by: Athena_news | January 19, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

For that matter, Geithner himself might be doing a better job if he were allowed to, you know, have a staff.

Posted by: bmrobert64 | January 19, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Couple of thoughts on Senate holds and unfilled administration positions:

1. This was probably an inevitable tradeoff of monopolizing the Senate in 2009 with comprehensive health care reform, a stimulus package, and Sotomayor confirmation. There's only so much RAM unfortunately.

2. I'm sure the various undersecretaries, asst administrators, lower court judges, and other bureaucrats have important roles I'd hardly turn this into a sign of the end of the republic, and a threat to our nation.

The Senate filibuster is off the charts infinitely a bigger deal than a bunch of offices in Washington sitting vacant.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | January 19, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I think we have to give the republicans some credit here. They have made it obvious from virtually day one of Obama's term that they would not cooperate and, in fact,would do everything in their power to destroy his agenda. They have made it crystal clear that they would rather have no government at all than a government lead by this president. It has been a remarkable show of unity and of cohesion.

The fact that Massachusetts (of all places) appears ready, willing, and able to elect someone who would support the republican policy of non-governance shows, in my mind, how successfully the repubs. have gotten their message across to voters. Massachusetts is on the verge of spitting on the grave of a man who gave his life to his state and to his country; notwithstanding any faults he may have had. He tried to do the right (moral) thing relative to health care for all Americans. That his place will be taken by one who will actively fight against Kennedy's legacy just shows that Americans get the government they truly deserve.

The enemy truly is us.

Posted by: bokun59 | January 19, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Some of these holds are just insane. Why would there need to be any debate over our ambassadors to Nepal, Uruguay, and Equatorial Guinea?

Posted by: jamieding51 | January 19, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

"the filibuster isn't even the worst of the lot."

The tyranny of the the minority will eventually lead to the decline of this nation.

Holds, on the other hand, are simply political payback. Who said the country couldn't run without its entourage of patronaged elites? Not all of the civil servants doing all of the actual work, that's for sure.

Once again, misplaced priorities, feigned outrage. Apologism extraordinaire.

Posted by: jc263field | January 19, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Why the heck aren't Democrats pummeling Republicans for this? WHY!?!

Posted by: RalfW | January 19, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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