As hopes of bipartisan cooperation spring eternal, petty, parochial, partisan behavior keeps rearing its ugly head in Washington.
Today's Exhibit A is Sen. Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, who is hog tying as many as 70 White House nominations to Pentagon, State Department and other federal posts with a highly unusual mass hold request.
This means 60 votes, which the Democrats don't have anymore, are needed to unstick each appointment - which slows the process of confirming lots of vital executive branch officials to approximately the speed of molasses in February.
Shelby's fit of pique would be bad enough if it stemmed from some principled disagreement over a nominee or two or three. But he doesn't actually care about the nominees or the jobs. Shelby is in a snit because he's afraid a $35 billion Pentagon order for aerial refueling tankers might go to Boeing - rather than to a firm that has promised to build the tankers in his state. He's also miffed, according to his staff, that a proposed FBI facility might not get built in Alabama.
Senators have long used holds as behind-the-scenes bargaining tactics; members can ask party leaders to bottle up a nominee or measure until they are placated. But nobody can recall a hold this sweeping, or one provoked by such selfishness.
This is Richard Shelby: So bent on bringing home the bacon, he's willing to starve the rest of us.
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