Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put an extraordinary “blanket hold” on at least 70 nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, according to multiple reports this evening. The hold means no nominations can move forward unless Senate Democrats can secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold.
“While holds are frequent,” CongressDaily’s Dan Friedman and Megan Scully report (sub. req.), “Senate aides said a blanket hold represents a far more aggressive use of the power than is normal.”
The Mobile Press-Register picked up the story early this afternoon. The paper confirmed Reid’s account of the hold, and reported that a Shelby spokesperson “did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking confirmation of the senator’s action or his reason for doing so.”
It goes without saying that this shows what a great, venerable institution the Senate is, what a serious, bipartisan legislator Shelby is, and (of course) what a failure Obama has been at changing the tone in Washington.
Here’s what I’d like to know: is there any limit to how much a strong-willed minority can slow things down in the Senate? Could a new Republican Senator do something like this every day and bring everything to a complete halt for months on end?