POLITICS
07/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Cass Sunstein Nomination Blocked By Saxby Chambliss

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) has blocked Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein from heading the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs because of his position on animal rights.

in a 2004 book, Sunstein wrote: "I will suggest that animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law."

Such blocks are becoming a trend. In an editorial this weekend, the New York Times reported that 21 Obama nominees for important posts are unconfirmed.

Most of the stranded nominees have long since had hearings and majority approval by Senate committees and meetings with lawmakers. None of the nominees have been tainted by scandal or had their core competence questioned. And yet, they remain unconfirmed -- one for more than three months and several others for more than a month -- mainly because of holds, often anonymous and unexplained, by Republican senators.

Holds are effectively a filibuster, requiring 60 votes to overcome. Used legitimately, they can buy time to clear up unanswered questions about a nominee's qualifications. But the current widespread holds of uncertain duration are obstructionism. Writing in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Norman Ornstein, a Congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the mass delays are "damaging the fabric of governance."

Harold Koh was confirmed as Legal Adviser to the State Department last week after months of delay, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held a vote to close debate.

Dawn Johnsen, a nominee for assistant Attorney General, has been held up since March.

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