What's the Holdup?
by Charles Lemos, Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 02:19:58 PM EST
Well, in a word the GOP, the party of obstructionism. If you can't get your way, paralyze government. Here are some of the holdups:
Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding the nomination of Miriam Sapiro for U.S. trade representative because the Canadian Parliament is considering a ban on adding candy flavorings to cigarettes; Senator George V. Voinovich is blocking Robert Perciasepe for deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency because according to the Senator the agency is underestimating the cost per household of proposed climate-change legislation; and the master of obstructionism Senator Jim DeMint is holding up the vote on Erroll Southers to head the Transportation Security Administration over concerns the nominee would undermine safety by allowing airport security screeners to unionize.
Republicans also are tying up the nominations of Martha Johnson for administrator of the General Services Administration, Tom Shannon for ambassador to Brazil, Alan Solomont for ambassador to Spain and Paul Anastas for EPA assistant administrator.
More background on the Southers holdup from the Washington Times:
Sen. Jim DeMint has locked a "hold" on President Obama's pick to head the Transportation Security Administration over concerns the nominee would undermine safety by allowing airport security screeners to unionize, the latest in a series of appointments stymied by Republican objections that are increasingly frustrating the Senate's Democratic majority.
The South Carolina Republican single-handedly put the brakes on the nomination with a "hold" - an informal practice by which a senator can keep a nomination or legislation from going to the Senate floor. It is virtually the only weapon left in the minority's arsenal to affect the chamber's business now that Republicans don't have enough votes in their caucus to mount a filibuster on their own.
Mr. DeMint blocked the vote on Erroll Southers, a top cop at Los Angeles International Airport, because he says the nominee is ducking questions about whether he would consider reversing current policy by opening the door to unionizing the security screeners.
Critics say the change would jeopardize national security by imposing union work rules that could hamstring the government's ability to quickly adapt to evolving terrorist threats.
"It's very simple. Giving union bosses control over security at our nation's airports is dangerous and will harm our ability to respond to serious threats," Mr. DeMint said. "If President Obama's nominee will not commit to putting homeland security above the whims of union bosses, it should give everyone serious concern."
Mr. Southers, assistant chief in charge of security and intelligence at the Los Angeles airport's police department, pledged he would not support any policy that compromised security. But he has avoided giving the "yes or no" answer Mr. DeMint wanted on the union question.
Mr. DeMint, ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's aviation operations, safety and security subcommittee, has kept his hold on Mr. Southers tightly focused on the nominee's reluctance to address the union question.
Mr. Southers avoided giving a definitive answer on the subject at a confirmation hearing and in an exchange of letters with Mr. DeMint.
While not saying whether he supported unionization, and noting he had previously worked as a chief officer in a unionized law enforcement agency, Mr. Southers pledged in an Oct. 14 letter to Mr. DeMint that he would put safety first in all decisions at TSA.
He said in the letter that he would not "support, recommend or endorse any system, practice or procedure that would potentially compromise the safety and security of the flying public."
Mr. DeMint characterized the response as an attempt to "hide behind rhetoric."
And Senator DeMint is attempting to disguise his visceral hate of unions as a matter of national security.