With approval rates of Congress down in the tank (the latest polls I saw reported were from October, when Congress was at 11% positive), you'd think they might try to act more like the leaders their constituents expect them to be. But that would be asking too much. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's addiction to pettiness knows no bounds.
Agence France-Presse reported Monday on the Senate's latest antics.
The US Senate is holding special one man sessions throughout Christmas and the New Year to prevent President George W. Bush from making appointments without the approval of the Democratic majority.
With the bang of a gavel, Democratic Senator Jim Webb declared the first session open on Sunday morning before closing it seconds later, without any of his colleagues present in the hall.
The brief ceremony will be repeated every two to three days until January 18, when lawmakers resume their work after the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
The Democratic majority is staging the move to avoid any formal recess for Congress extending over several days. A recess would allow Bush to appoint ambassadors, judges and other top posts without seeking a Senate confirmation for his nominations.
Bush has previously used his authority to avoid drawn-out political battles with Democratic foes over controversial nominations, including that of foreign policy hawk John Bolton who was named in 2005 as Washington's UN ambassador during a congressional recess.
I saw this reported on the news last week, and they interviewed Senator Webb about it. He said he was chosen for the lonely task because he lives nearby in Virginia and he's got low seniority. In the AFP article, Webb is quoted this way:
"Presidential nominations for important positions within the Executive Branch should be carefully considered and debated before the Senate in order to ensure that the most qualified individuals are serving the American people," Webb said in a statement.
For a Senate newbie, Webb has already learned the Democrats' double-speak. "Carefully considered and debated" really means "blocked."
When the Republicans had a scant majority in the Senate, the Democrats filibustered President Bush's judicial and other nominations to prevent them from coming to a vote. This was the first time in US history that the filibuster was used on nominations who had enough votes in the full Senate to be approved, instead of just using it on legislation. So the President used recess appointments to fill some of the more crucial spots that were being left vacant by a recalcitrant minority in the Senate.
Now that the Democrats have the Senate majority, they have no need for the filibuster of nominees. The leaders of the Judiciary Committee simply refuse to hold the hearings that would allow the nominees to be "carefully considered and debated." So judicial posts are just as vacant as before.
Normally the Congressional recess over Christmas would give President Bush a chance to fill some of those vacant posts. Only this time, the petulant Senate Majority Leader Reid is sending his lackeys over to the Capitol building just often enough to keep the Senate out of recess. It's petty, and it's far beneath the standards we have a right to expect from the people we have elected to govern our country.
Reid and his cronies should be ashamed of themselves for this blatant act of obstructionism. But they've been without shame for so long, they wouldn't know it if it slugged them in the face.