Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Flight to quality

You know what's frustrating? When you write a blog post, and then a real blogger like Jonathan Cohn goes and writes pretty much the same post, except 100 times better. But I'm not the jealous type -- too much -- so go check out what he has to say. An excerpt:
Republican threats to block nominees to the consumer board are of a piece with their opposition to Don Berwick, Obama's first choice to run the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; to Peter Diamond, whom Obama tapped to sit on the Federal Reserve Board; and most recently to John Bryson, Obama's nominee to take over the Commerce Department. It's nothing short of a power grab by the Republican Party – an effort to achieve, through the confirmation process, what they could not achieve through legislation. And it seems unprecedented, at least in modern times.

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Just to be sure, I consulted Thomas Mann, the political scholar at Brookings known for his encyclopedic knowledge of congressional history. Here's what he said:

In the case of the Consumer Protection Board, Senate Republicans have said they would not confirm anyone who does not agree to restructure the leadership of the agency from a single person to a multi-member body. They insist that a legitimately passed law be changed before allowing it to function with a director – a modern-day form of nullification. Same with the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. There is nothing normal or routine about this. The Senate policing of non-cabinet appointments is sometimes more aggressive but the current practice goes well beyond that, more like pre-Civil War days than 20th century practice.

Ah, yes, nullification. The ostensible philosophy behind that idea was the need to protect rights of a permanent minority, namely the slave-holding states of the South, lest they never have a say in policy. But Republicans aren't a permanent minority in need of special constitutional protections. They're a faction trying to bully the majority. And they're getting away with it.

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