A single Republican senator, Richard Shelby (R-AL), has placed a blanket hold on 70 nominees made by the Obama administration (that's a seven followed by a zero). The hold applies to every nominee on the Senate's executive calendar.
Roberts Gibbs, the White House press secretary, sharply criticized Mr. Shelby’s actions, calling it the best instance yet for how Washington is broken. “I guess if you needed one example of what’s wrong with this town, it might be that one senator can hold up 70 qualified individuals to make government work better because he didn’t get his earmarks,” Mr. Gibbs told reporters today. “If that’s not the poster child for how this town needs to change the way it works, I fear there won’t be a greater example of silliness throughout the entire year of 2010.”Sen. Shelby's abuse of the system is all in a day's lack of work for the GOP.
He added: “It boggles the mind to hold up qualified nominees for positions that are needed to perform functions in a government because you didn’t get two earmarks.”
Update (2/5/10 2:30 p.m.): Josh Marshall has more on the grubby hold up aspects of Sen. Shelby's extortion.
In this case, we're not dealing with a stand on partisanship or ideology or simple political shiv play which I guess can each be respected in their own place. This is more like just a stick up. Gimme my money and I'll give you your Senate back! Worse than a squeegee man and not much better than a bank robber, Shelby is shutting down the president's ability to appoint anyone to anything until he gets his way. In a sense Shelby's gambit is little different from what countless other senators of both parties have done in the past, using the senate rules to get the White House's attention to pry some money free from the federal government. But the scale is unheard and the moment is different. The only mystery about this one is which is more outrageous -- Shelby's hold or the fact that the rest of the senators of both parties allow it.