So, Richard Shelby! As you may have heard, he is being what the kids on the street call "an intransigent dick." This is because he's placed a blanket hold on all of President Obama's nominations for no other reason than that he feels Obama hasn't shown sufficient respect to Alabama.
It is crazy that America cannot have judges or agency heads or, you know, a guy to head up the Transportation Safety Administration, just because the president didn't send flowers and wishes to Alabama, but that is basically what is happening.
Also? Remember that part of Obama's "Question Time" with the House GOP Caucus, when he said, "wasteful spending is usually spent somehow outside of your district," and quipped: "The spending in your district tends to seem pretty sensible." Well...
According to the report, Shelby is holding Obama's nominees hostage until a pair of lucrative programs that would send billions in taxpayer dollars to his home state get back on track. The two programs Shelby wants to move forward or else:
- A $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers. From CongressDaily: "Northrop/EADS team would build the planes in Mobile, Ala., but has threatened to pull out of the competition unless the Air Force makes changes to a draft request for proposals." Federal Times offers more details on the tanker deal, and also confirms its connection to the hold.
- An improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI. From CongressDaily: "[Shelby] is frustrated that the Obama administration won't build" the center, which Shelby earmarked $45 million for in 2008. The center is due to be based "at the Army's Redstone Arsenal."
At any rate, now Michael Keegan, president of People For The American Way, has weighed in with complaints about Shelby:
"Senator Shelby's move is deeply cynical and an abuse of Senate procedure," said Michael B. Keegan, President of People For the American Way. "The American people deserve a functioning government, but Senator Shelby would rather hobble important agencies that keep us safe and provide important services than risk losing some pork barrel projects for his own state. Conservative commentators have slammed Democrats negotiating deals that pale in comparison to this. I hope they'll be aggressive in pointing out Senator Shelby's behavior, but I'm not holding my breath."
Senator Shelby is angry about the Pentagon's bidding process for air-to-air refueling tankers and funding for a research center to be built in his state. His hold effectively blocks votes on more than 70 executive branch nominees, including officials in the Army, Air Force, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and Department of State.
"To block votes on U.S. Attorneys, key positions in the armed forces, and nominees tasked with overseeing the disposal of radioactive waste in order to wring a few more dollars from the federal government in dangerously irresponsible," said Keegan. "Senator Shelby is doing an immense disservice to all Americans, including his own constituents. When voters voice their anger about the gridlock and partisanship in Washington, this is exactly what they're talking about."
Keegan went on to say that Shelby "better watch out" because "Carly Fiorina's sheep may want to have a few words with him." But there, I think he's just being trendy.