In his inaugural address, President Obama (President! Obama!) said "we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."
While this spirit seems to have taken the country and even most of official D.C. by storm, there's one group of people who seem entirely immune: Senate conservatives. If the confirmation proceedings for Obama's cabinet nominees is an early indication, looks like these old dogs are up to their same old tricks. With the exception of seven nominees (including Energy Secretary Steve Chu and Interior Secretary) confirmed by voice vote just after the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, most of the rest have been subjected to various petty objections and delays.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 94-2 confirmation vote was delayed a day by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Delayer-in-Chief. (It should be noted in his favor that John McCain got up and made an appeal to his colleagues to stop being petty and immediately approve Clinton by a voice vote.)
Attorney General nominee Eric Holder has also been held up by Cornyn and others for committing the grievous sin of saying waterboarding is indeed torture, torture is indeed illegal, and that perhaps those who did so might have to face consequences for their actions.
The blockade parade was stepped up on Wednesday when it was revealed that an unnamed senator or senators had placed one of the Senate's notorious "anonymous holds" on the nominations of Lisa Jackson for EPA and Nancy Sutley for Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality. We learned yesterday that the culprit was Sen. John Barasso of Wyoming, a fossil fool who told Jackson during her confirmation hearing that following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Mass. v. EPA and actually using the Clean Air Act to do something about global warming was a "disaster waiting to happen."
(Jackson and Sutley were finally confirmed by voice vote last night.)
And it doesn't stop there. Conservatives are also stepping up their assault on Sierra Club BFF and green jobs/environmental justice/workers' rights champion Rep. Hilda Solis, Obama's choice for Secretary of Labor. As with the environmental nominees, this fight has little to do with Solis herself. It is merely a proxy war in a larger conflict -- the upcoming battle royale over the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill, which the Sierra Club strongly supports, would turn back the tide of assaults against workers' rights by making it easier for labor unions to organize. It has become latest obsession of wingnutopia (see also: abortion and gay marriage). Business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are preparing to spend upwards of $100 million to defeat it and their allies in the Senate are using Solis' strong support of the bill to hold up her confirmation.
Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Obama's blockbuster choice to coordinate energy, environment and climate issues from the White House, is not subject to Senate confirmation, but has been subjected to perhaps the most bizarre and unwarranted assault of all. In a banner, front page above the fold headline touting its ridiculous hatchet job on Browner, the conservative Washington Times attempted to bring back everyone's favorite bogeyman from the presidential campaign: international socialism. Apparently, Browner attended one meeting -- at 10 Downing Street no less -- on international climate issues that happened to be convened by an organization that convenes the world's center-left parties, including Britain's Labour Party, on sustainability. The article, which was merely the culmination of a week of increasingly insane ramblings from wingnuts in the blogosphere, led folks to believe that soon we'd all be singing the Internationale in the streets.
Who knew that being green could have so many people seeing red?