87 Republicans joined 198 Democrats to support legislation to end the government shutdown and prevent a default on the national debt. This was the key vote to ending the standoff. The Senate and President Barack Obama had been ready to support this legislation from the beginning. But Speaker of the House John Boehner was reluctant to bring a bill to the floor that would rely on Democratic votes to pass. Speaker Boehner has relied on Democratic votes before, but only on a few occasions and usually as a last resort to end some kind of legislative crisis like the recent shutdown. Much more could be accomplished in Congress – and we could stop governing by crisis – if Speaker Boehner was willing to work with Democrats to govern. Continue reading
While confirmation is an important Constitutional power of the Senate to direct and oversee policymaking, the broken rules of the Senate have turned the confirmation process into the DMV. Nominees wait indefinitely for a decision on their confirmation, and respond to endless requests for information and documents in a process that depends on the whims of every individual Senator.
The Senate has rightly been criticized for failing to confirm President Obama’s appointees for important positions throughout the government. Most of those nominees are uncontroversial, and leaving those positions unfilled makes federal agencies less effective. But the case of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms highlights the Senate’s important oversight role through the confirmation process.
Lt. Gen. Helms was the first military woman to travel into space, so it makes sense that President Obama nominated her to take over as Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command. However, the Washington Post reports that in February 2012, Helms granted clemency to an Air Force officer under her command who was convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow officer. Sexual assault is a major problem in the military, and one that many feel that the Defense Department is not doing enough to address.