Advice and Extortion


He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

United States Constitution, II.2

Sometimes it feels like fantasy: “These are dark times, there is no denying . . . .”

Never mind.

It would be wrong to call JeeYeon Park’s CNBC report—

Equities briefly pared their gains after Senator Rand Paul threatened to put Janet Yellen’s Fed chair nomination on hold this week, according to sources close to Paul.

Paul is insisting on a vote on his Fed transparency bill, and has informed Senate leadership of his intentions, according to the source.

Meanwhile, a Senate Democratic aide told CNBC that the ability of Paul to single-handedly block the nomination “should not be overstated” as Paul would need 40 other senators to join him to cut off a motion to end debate and bring the nomination to the floor. Although hearings have not yet been scheduled, the aide said the leadership at this point is confident the nomination will succeed.

—little noticed, as the markets noticed and reacted, causing other people to notice—

Sen. Rand Paul is getting a lot of attention this morning for his threat to hold up the nomination of Janet L. Yellen to head the Federal Reserve, but he may have very little leverage to stop her confirmation.

The Kentucky Republican is seeking a vote on his Federal Reserve transparency legislation as part of considering the Yellen nomination. The announcement came in a YouTube video posted Thursday by the Campaign for Liberty, a nonprofit affiliated with Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

Legislation to require an audit of the Federal Reserve has had bipartisan support in the past when pushed by both Pauls, but it has faced no shortage of opposition and roadblocks.

“Sen. Rand Paul will be demanding a vote on audit the Fed in the Senate when they consider the new Fed nominee,” John Tate, the chairman of Campaign for Liberty, said in the video.

However, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could decide to ignore Paul’s request by moving to limit debate on Yellen’s nomination by filing cloture. If Reid gets 60 votes, there’s no need to make a deal with Paul or anyone else. Yellen appears to already have enough support to overcome a filibuster, unless Republicans and some sympathetic Democrats decide to back his quest for a vote on the audit bill.

“Right now, the Senate is preparing to debate and confirm the new Obama nominee to chair the Federal Reserve,” Paul said. “I say vote no on a new Fed chairman without a vote on my audit the Fed bill. This will be the fight of our lives.”

—and now we have an issue.

Benen - GOP Ransom NoteGenerally speaking, the president nominates certain officials, and the Senate, after giving the executive its consideration, confirms or refuses the nomination. While the general idea has taken many particular forms over the years, resulting in all manner of ludicrous political antics tearing the Senate to pieces, we must consider the potential of Paul’s suggestion in the context of twenty-first century conservanoire.

To a certain degree, it is merely a question of degrees. How far is too far, and other such questions. But sometimes we skip out on the tolerances, hop valences. In politics and other customary dimensions, this can have tremendous consequences.

There is, after all, the whole question of duty versus remuneration, regardless of the currency. That is to say, if we consider the recent budget and debt ceiling standoff from within a specific range of perspectives, there is a valid question whether or not paying expenses already billed is reasonable leverage for demanding accommodation.

A government shutdown would be bad; but a breach of the debt ceiling is likely to be catastrophically bad. When Republicans say, “Meet our demands or we’ll shut down the government,” they think they have some leverage. But when they say, “Meet our demands or we’ll trash the full faith and credit of the United States,” they figure they have lots of leverage.

On the former, GOP lawmakers are threatening to do some deliberate harm to some Americans. On the latter, Republicans are threatening to do overwhelming harm to nearly every American. This, in Scalise’s mind, gives the party “more leverage.”

It also helps explain why the ransom note is so ridiculously one-sided. If unhinged Republicans ask for everything under the sun, they may not get everything, but they figure if Democrats give them anything, they’ll be better off than they are now.

All the while, the political world doesn’t see it at all scandalous that so many elected American officials, all from one party, are so willing to hurt the country on purpose.

Steve Benen

It seems an emerging theme among Republicans that opposition politics includes that metaphorical gun to the nation’s head. But are Republicans prepared to win?

No, really. Stop and think about that for a moment.

If one of these “hostage” stunts works, and the voters continue to support the GOP, then have they endorsed this manner of politicking? If this is what the marketplace buys, then will Democrats, when they are the minority party, adapt to compete? Are Republicans and conservatives prepared to win?

Or should we even go that far? Are voters in general, and conservatives in particular, prepared for the Democrats to simply adapt? While some might suggest a leftist suicide caucus counterintuitive, it is certainly worth hypothetical consideration. Especially since the Democrats have no contemporary analogue to offer.

Imagine the sort of things Obama and the Democrats could accomplish if their line was, “Give us everything we want or we’ll destroy the economy.” Certes, plenty on the right-hand side of the aisle will complain that is exactly what Democrats do, but much like Pelosi jousting with the full faith and credit of the nation, we can only wonder what that looks like, since it doesn’t seem to happen.

Full-time filibustering led to a standoff over the (ahem!) “nuclear option”, and the result was that the GOP tacked from blindly holding every possible nominee to arguing that the vacant office didn’t really need to be filled, so . . . er . . . um . . . something, something, dark side.

In the wake of the debt ceiling and continuing resolution showdown, Sen. Paul is advocating that once again, Capitol Hill Republicans ought to refuse to do their jobs without a little extra enticement. Sure, it only took $2.9 billion in pork to get McConnell onboard with reopening the government, but if Republicans expect that they are somehow going to empower their mysteriously silent majority and win back the government, are they really prepared for Democrats to affirm the marketplace preference and adopt this approach to governance?

Should governance come down to quid pro quo, tit for tat, trick or treat? It used to be that legislative wheeling and dealing was done in the course of politicians doing their jobs; now it is demanded in exchange for politicians doing their jobs. One might wonder if, maybe, the party asserting that government just doesn’t work is simply daring everyone else to prove them right.

Or maybe not; that might be unfair.

Perhaps it is more appropriate to suggest they are begging everyone else to join them in the gutter and help prove them right.

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