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The Nelsonization of Richard Shelby

The e-mails I'm getting on Richard Shelby are a lot like the e-mails I got after Ben Nelson's deal worked its way into the news. For instance, reader CS writes:

I have become disgusted with Congressional Members acting in their own selfish interests and not those of the nation. We need good leadership in all national leaders; addressing the President's nominations for those leadership is in the best interests of the nation. I have long respected Senator Shelby, but his hold on all nominees has me teetering on the edge of leaving the Republican party!

Shelby's hold is quite a gift for the Democrats. The question is whether they decide to take it.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 5, 2010; 10:44 AM ET
 
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Comments

"The question is whether they decide to take it."

No. Chance. In. Heck.
Fox News might say bad things about them!
And civility amongst the villagers is all that matters.

Posted by: AZProgressive | February 5, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

>>The question is whether they decide to take it.>>

The Rs don't have the brains to govern, the Ds don't have the guts. Pushing this story would require guts.

Posted by: fuse | February 5, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

So, it is "bad" for Senator Shelby to exercise his right to block action in the Senate. Are there other cases where is "bad" to exercise one's rights?

It's a serious question. Is it "bad" for one who is opposed to current health care reform proposals to speak out against them? Is it "bad" for one religious group to advocate its views over those of another? Is it "bad" for workers to organize into unions?

Where is the line between "good" exercise of rights and "bad" exercise of rights? If the line somehow relates to the will of the majority, isn't that simply saying that rights only exist for the majority?

Posted by: rmgregory | February 5, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

You know, as much as I hate the filibuster or Senators who quake at any less-than-great poll out of their home state, the backlash against "parochial interests" is just a bit too extreme. While we should seek legislators that have the courage of their convictions and are willing to make an unpopular vote if they think it's in the national interest, it is important to remember that they *are* elected by the people of their state to represent them in the Congress. While things like this are galling, I don't think we should hope for a system where our representative completely ignore the people they represent.

Posted by: MosBen | February 5, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Don't be silly.

It makes perfect sense to advocate your point of view. It makes no sense to allow one senator to hold the senate hostage for personal gain, such as billions of dollars of pork for his state.

Posted by: fuse | February 5, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Gregory, Senator Shelby is not exercising any constitutional right here. He is attempting to strong arm the President and the Senate to flush billions of dollars in wasteful spending through his state using an arcane Senate process that is exceedingly undemocratic. That is the difference.

Posted by: scudderw | February 5, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

The fact is that Senator Shelby did something unprecedented by blocking all of the president's nominees should make veryone worried. This unprecedented usage of a Senate rule spells trouble for the future. His reason was for billins in earmarks for his state three days after his party and he condemned the president for the budget. Too much debt, too big of a deficit, spending freezes immediately were the talking points of the day. Now, lo and behold, money for MS or holds on every nominee indefinitely. Is the earmark money, magic money the rest of us know nothing about? What happened to politicans working for all of the PEOPLE not simply their state? We have enough ideology in this country on a daily basis to choke a dog, all this does is give some new talking points to the Democrats and still nothing will get done. This latest stunt truly takes the cake.

Posted by: Thinking4 | February 5, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"Where is the line between "good" exercise of rights and "bad" exercise of rights? If the line somehow relates to the will of the majority, isn't that simply saying that rights only exist for the majority?"

the line is when it is killing the country.
that is where the line is.
i spend a small part of my week working in a shelter for homeless women and children.
there are not just "philosophical" arguments when you sit with a group of children in a shelter who dont even have a matchbox car or a coloring book to call their own.
there are many hurting people out here in the real world.
when i leave there, i am thankful i am not living there.
with a bad turn of luck, we can all just be a few steps away from a homeless shelter....dont kid yourself.
the people are the ones being held bondage by the obstruction of legislation.
whatever way you want to try and justify it, there are millions of hurting people out here, and there is work that needs to be done...and nothing is being done.

Posted by: jkaren | February 5, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

"the people are the ones being held bondage by the obstruction of legislation."

sorry, i meant being held "hostage."
the political climate is so upsetting, i cant get my words right.

Posted by: jkaren | February 5, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

The issue is bigger than Shelby. What kind of government can we have with Senate rules which allow one crazy senator to place a "hold" all a president's nominees to get earmarks for his own state? The Senate is dysfunctional. Most of its members on both sides are bought and paid for by the rich leaving the middle class (what little is left of it after the last eight years) out in the cold.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | February 5, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Well, speaking as a Republican, I'm all for putting any Republican who doesn't oppose this out of business.

Posted by: MikeR4 | February 5, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, I'd appreciate some informed comment regarding the legal force of Senate rules. In particular, I think they have none--and that the Senate leadership has the power to simply ignore them, and schedule a vote. According to the Constitution, anything with 51 votes (or 50 plus Joe Biden) passes. No court, in my view, would wade in and hold that the Senate must adhere to an extra-Constitutional supermajority. You've noted in the past that the Senate has the power to change its rules at the start of each new congress, i.e., every two years. My view is that, as a legal matter, the Senate has the power to changes its rules anytime 51 members want to. But I'm not a Constitutional scholar. Do you know someone who can weigh in?

Posted by: madhoboken | February 5, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

if this idiotic act isn't proof that Senate rules must be changed to eliminate both "holds" and the filibuster I don't know what does! I don't care if Dems did it under Bush or Reps are doing it under Obama its undemocratic , wrong and has no place in a democratic (small "d") society.

Posted by: mybandy | February 5, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Our Federal government's two biggest problems are the Republican and Democratic parties. Both are interested in nothing but power for themselves. It's time for the voters to ensure term limits.

Posted by: eldergent | February 5, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

If the dems call him out then they must admit Nelson was wrong too for holding out on healthcare - right? Then if they do that - they lose any upper hand because it just shows how both are corrupt - Heck - Shelby could say he got the idea from Nelson

Posted by: Holla26 | February 5, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Rewriting History - Why You Need To Hide Your Wallet
As the health care reform debate limps on, the Republicans are attempting, with some degree of success, to rewrite history and prepare the way for big businesses to drain your wallets, silently targeting seniors for an extra-special shakedown. Aware that some of the public still remembers that their party was in power in the eight years leading up to the financial meltdown they’re sending out an endless stream of messages about big, growing government, increasing taxes and a growing budget deficit. It’s time for some fact [...]
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Posted by: verna2 | February 5, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

"It's time for the voters to ensure term limits."
==

I can understand this sentiment. I certainly think term-limits are necessary for executive jobs, like governor or president. However I think we need experienced senators and representatives. If you were to take Russ Feingold and Sherrod Brown from the left, and Dick Lugar and Lindsay Graham from the right, I think we would have a very weak Legislative Branch. We need the people i named and several other seasoned vet's like them, to counter-balance the power of the executive branch.

Posted by: elijah24 | February 5, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

@Mark R4:
"Well, speaking as a Republican, I'm all for putting any Republican who doesn't oppose this out of business."

~~~~~~~

Thank you for restoring my faith that some partisans can take the larger view, even when their representatives do not.

Posted by: onewing1 | February 5, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

@madhoboken:

I heard Sherrod Brown say recently that the Senate can change Senate Rules at the beginning of each Congress, i.e., the 101st Congress sets its rules, which stay in effect until the next Congress (102nd) begins. And then, the new congress (102nd) sets its rules.

He said they normally just perfunctorily agree to the rules of the just prior Congress, but that with the recent abuse of filibusters, etc., that there's talk of seriously changing the rules at the beginning of the next Congress.

Ezra, is this correct??

Posted by: onewing1 | February 5, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

as long as washington keeps americans split between republican and democrat,
liberal and conservative.
they can maintain the dark cloak of lies
that keeps the people serving the government.
the only truth in washington,
is lies. lies. lies.

Posted by: simonsays1 | February 5, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Extortion, plain and simple. This idiot speaks out of both sides of his mouth -- big gov't spending versus pork barrel earmark. Where is McGrumpy of AZ and Closet Graham from SC?

Posted by: hadelaide | February 5, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

It is time for the Senate Majority Leader to find a little room, maybe just bigger than a closet with just enough space for a speaker or two, a couple of audience seats and a press pool camera.

Just take Shelby, and these other ruiners and tell them this is the filibuster room. Let them go in there and howl at the moon until their tonsils bleed.

In other rooms legislative work can take place.

Posted by: gradya3 | February 5, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

"I have become disgusted with Congressional Members acting in their own selfish interests and not those of the nation."

Unfortunately, all politicians pretty much always act in their own self-interest. That's why government is so dysfunctional. Voters want lower taxes, more services and no deficit spending. Unfortunately that's mathematically impossible. So politicians legislate to the least politically costly approach - deficit spending.
Steve

Posted by: FatTriplet3 | February 8, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

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