Last night, Patricia Smith, President Obama’s choice to be Solicitor of the Department of Labor, passed an important procedural hurdle: the Senate decided to vote on her nomination.
What’s remarkable is that, unlike past attempts to block votes on executive branch nominees, the vote was entirely along party lines. Even the so-called moderates in the Republican party, like Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, voted against allowing an up or down vote on a second-tier executive branch nomination.
For a party that railed against the use of the filibuster even in the case of judicial nominees, the hypocrisy is remarkable.
Perhaps, you think, Patricia Smith is far outside the mainstream, and the GOP was using it’s last tactic to stop an extreme nominee.
But filibustering a nominee like Smith for a position most people have never heard of in a department that is rarely in the news still requires some justification. After all, most of the GOP senators have been around long enough that they served during a time when such a filibuster would be unimaginable.
So they called Smith a liar.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), the ranking Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, led the pack, decrying her "lack of candor" and cited "discrepancies in her testimony." The issue — which was really not, of course, the issue — centered on a small pilot program in New York called Wage Watch, which aims to educate workers about the minimum wage is and when they are entitled to overtime. Republicans, during committee hearings, insisted that it was a Big Labor plot, but Smith said the idea had been generated within her office. It was later shown that apparently a labor representative had suggested it to an employee, who then suggested it to Smith.
The GOP also lambasted Smith for categorizing the pilot program as "educational" rather than "enforcement." Democrats pointed out that the distinction was an irrelevant one: The purpose of the education was to improve enforcement efforts.
The pilot program cost $6,000. Smith manages some 4,000 employees and oversees an $11 billion annual budget.
The conclusion is obvious. The GOP, including so-called moderates, are obstructing nominations for the sake of obstruction, throwing sand into the gears of government and attempting to hobble the Obama administration by any means necessary. That tactic is irresponsible and unacceptable. Americans deserve better.