Is the US Senate Completely Broken?

I don’t understand how the US Senate, a legislative body vital to the functioning of our nation, has become locked down by tyrannical, undemocratic procedural traditions.

The NY Times had an article the other day demonstrating how the GOP is able to block basically any Presidential appointment. Fed board members, a Commerce Secretary, a head of Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac, and many other positions remain unfilled due to Republican objects. (The most galling of these, in my opinion, is the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a much-needed anti-fraud watchdog agency that the GOP would not hesitate to scrap if they could.)

What’s the big deal, you say? Senators have done that throughout history, you say? What is unprecedented this time is the blanket approach taken by the GOP. They are not confirming any nominees at all:

Senators have long exercised their constitutional prerogative to derail nominations. And, for just as long, the party in the White House has accused its opponents of abusing that power. But several of the current standoffs differ in at least one respect: Republicans have said they are not opposing a particular nominee but rather any nominee, whoever it may be.

And the White House continues to cave to demands issued by these Senate Republicans, only to have new demands made in their place. It’s like trying to negotiate with your mugger: you produce your wallet only to have your jewelry taken next.

Sen. David Vitter, who really should resign because of his habit of booking prostitutes from the Senate floor, held up an appointment to demand 15 new offshore drilling permits. After these were granted, another GOP Senator blocked the appointment with a different set of demands. After THOSE were granted, a third GOP Senator issued a new set of demands and blocked the appointment. And on and on it goes.

Similarly, Senators can put a hold on bills they don’t like. Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma is notorious for abusing this “gentlemanly” privilege.

Has the day-to-day running of the US Senate gotten so bad that it can no longer function? I think we have arrived at that point.

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