Time bombing the Senate
A few facts:
1. The nominations of Janet Yellen to be vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, as well as Sarah Bloom Raskin and Peter Diamond to be members of the Fed’s board, are languishing in the Senate. “We’ve got a limited amount of time here," explained Chris Dodd. "I don’t know if there’s going to be any appetite to deal with these Fed nominees." This means the Federal Reserve is critically understaffed: In the event of an emergency, the Board of Governors needs five members to authorize extraordinary actions to save the economy. Right now, there are only four.
2. The bipartisan -- and it's really bipartisan, with Sens. Mike Enzi, Richard Burr and Judd Gregg all signed on as co-sponsors -- food safety bill is in limbo again because Tom Coburn is obstructing its passage. Coburn doesn't have the votes to stop the bill, or even to stop a vote on the bill, but he does have the power to waste days and even weeks of Senate floor time.
3. The administration is exhibiting an increasing preference for recess appointments and non-confirmable positions. Don Berwick, for instance, was installed as director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid using a recess appointment, as the administration judged the traditional process too broken to accommodate a nomination on something so controversial as health-care reform. Elizabeth Warren is getting an effectively made-up position "advising" the president on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rather than simply leading it. "Warren herself has told allies on Capitol Hill that she would prefer to be assigned on a temporary basis, rather than enduring a prolonged confirmation process," reported Brady Dennis.
People basically understand the role the filibuster's role as a supermajority requirement. You need 60 votes rather than 50, which is straightforward enough. They don't understand, however, the way the Senate struggles with time: There's too much to do, and any one senator can make it virtually impossible to do anything.
In some cases, that means nothing gets done. So the Federal Reserve is understaffed and the food safety bill languishes. In other cases, that means things get done through unusual or ad hoc mechanisms that aren't accountable to Congress, as with Warren. The result of obstruction isn't just gridlock -- it's also evasion. And we need to think seriously about whether we're comfortable with a Congress that the executive branch increasingly goes around because it's too dysfunctional to go through.
September 16, 2010; 10:24 AM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Wonkbook: Warren as temp; China bill; Why your lightbulb is not made in America
Next: Health-care reform polling poorly
Posted by: mrnegative | September 16, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mschol17 | September 16, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MosBen | September 16, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jnc4p | September 16, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MosBen | September 16, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rjw88 | September 16, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse