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Because the Founding Fathers wanted the government understaffed

I don't know that I have anything new to say on the absurdity of Peter Diamond's nomination to the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors being held up, but I'd just observe that this is the everyday price of the Senate's dysfunctions and inanity. Big stuff like health-care reform either gets passed or obstructed in full view of the entire country. But endless small stuff, like nominations to the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, gets held up or never gets done because so much time is being wasted on obstruction and there's little public pressure for the Senate to do the stuff that nobody knows it needs to do in the first place.

To make this a bit sharper, a lot of Republicans have been arguing that the filibuster is terrific because it keeps the Senate from doing big, unpopular things. But the reality is that there are time-consuming ways to get around filibusters (like the reconciliation process) and so the big stuff that the majority party's base cares about actually does tend to get done, and health care is a good example of it. The problem is all the stuff that the public doesn't know enough about to have any opinion on s getting held up, and in many cases, simply abandoned, as the majority party wants to do legislation the electorate cares about as opposed to spending time on nominations they've never heard of.

The analogy I like to use is to a really sick person. They may be able to muster the will to keep paying rent, turn in their big report to their boss, and so forth. But a lot of little things in their life will go undone because they don't have the energy left over to complete them. And those things add up.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 6, 2010; 5:06 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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The founding fathers didn't have the filibuster to worry about.

Posted by: srw3 | August 6, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

How can you say that there are ways to get around the filibuster? That's just not true. The reconciliation process can only be used in certain very limited circumstances. I'd like Mr. Klein to give me one other example of how you get around the ersatz, virtual filibuster. The Republicans are so hell bent on obstructing everything in their remorseless efforts to slime back into power that even if you water down legislation so much that it ceases to perform its intended function at all, they'll still filibuster it. Ben Nelson is just as bad as the Republicans. How is he a Democrat? Assuming that the Democrats still have a Senate majority after the Fall elections, they need to change the Senate rules by simple majority vote to do away with the filibuster. Unfortunately, they will actually do that about the time monkeys fly out my butt.

Posted by: ejs2 | August 6, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal vigilance against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

~ Thomas Jefferson ~

I 'pose that might mean a big, big, Obama/Pelosi buildup of henchmen, but hey, who knows: when you see Obama/Pelosi supporters with rope, they might just be heading towards you "in good faith". If you doubt it, just take my place and prove Pelosi right!

Posted by: rmgregory | August 6, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse


The senate is in recess August 9th -- 12th. Please do a post discussing recess appointments to fill the two long empty seats on the Federal Reserve Board. This is clearly no small thing. Those FOMC votes might mean much stronger monetary stimulus, and not confirming some of the worst Fed bank presidents in 2011.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | August 6, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

It is abundantly clear that the GOP strategy to regain power is to destroy the economy and cripple the effectiveness of the federal government. Their theory is that if things get really bad then Americans will vote out the Democrats.

Posted by: ChicagoSteve | August 6, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Ezra - did you feel the same way when Senator Dodd blocked two Bush fed nominees (Kroszner and Klane) who actually had experience with banking and monetary policy for 20 months in the middle of the financial crisis before sending them back in 2009, or is it only Republican obstruction that bothers you?

All the bloviating about the Diamond nomination from the Left is shows a lack of knowledge of the Senate and a lack of interest in anything but complaining about Republicans.

Posted by: joeb31 | August 6, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

ChicagoSteve is generally correct. I would further posit that Republicans simply cannot fathom the idea that government should work at all. They effed it all up under W and they refuse to let Obama get any chance to clean up the mess so they can keep dragging government down until no one in their right mind would even try to work in government. Then we'll be stuck in idiocracy.

Posted by: scudderw | August 6, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

1) How many Washington Post staffers were part of JournoList and, if there are any currently unnamed, who are they?

2) Will the Post be transparent and either release or order its staffers to release their contributions to the list?

3) Will the Post release the names and affiliations of all those on the list or have its staffers do so?

4) Did the Post know about JournoList when Klein was hired and that it was a “center to left” group? If yes, what does that say about the Post’s claims of neutrality?

5) Did actions on JournoList violate the Post’s ethical guidelines?

6) Has the Post revised or added any ethical guidelines as a result of this scandal?

7) Will the Post permit staffers to belong to or operate such lists in the future?

8) Does the Post often embrace “off the record” e-mail conversations with hundreds of people at a time?

9) Was Klein’s supervisor(s) on the list and were they monitoring what went on?

10) Has the Post examined the possibility that JournoList impacted Post news coverage?

11) How much did the Post look into JournoList before hiring Klein?

12) Were Klein and the other Post members of the list using it and posting to it on company time? If not, when were they doing so?

13) Did Klein and the other Post members write to the list using company equipment and offices?

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15) Did Klein attempt to enforce a rule against campaigning and, if so, how?

16) Did Klein post written guidelines for all members of the list? If so, what were those guidelines?

17) Klein had said on The American Prospect on March 17, 2009: “There are no government or campaign employees on the list.” That has been proven false. How did he try to monitor this issue? Were there other members of the Obama campaign and administration on the list?

18) Did Klein ban anyone from the list?

19) Has Klein or any other Post staffer (other than Dave Weigel) offered to resign because of their contributions to the list?

20) When Klein shut down the list, did he delete the list? If not, will the Post order him to release it so that readers may decide for themselves?

Posted by: JoeJeffersonn | August 6, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Recess appoint everybody. Everyone in Admin. jobs gets burned out after 2 years anyway.

Posted by: beowulf_ | August 7, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

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