Wednesday, January 14, 2009

GOP to Make Confirmations More Difficult

Several Senate confirmation hearings have gone smoothly for President-Elect Barack Obama's proposed cabinet. Former Senate Minority Leader - and incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services - Tom Daschle (D-SD) had no real troubles. Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-NY) seemingly breezed through her hearings for appointment as Secretary of State, and even got some good press. Even Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) made it through her hearings relatively easily, despite Republican reservations about the Employee Free Choice Act.

However, two confirmations are becoming more controversial by the day as GOP Senators look to derail bipartisan support of the incoming administration.

The first is for Obama's Attorney General pick, Eric Holder. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are preparing to question him about his 1999 support of clemency for Puerto Rican nationalists that bombed a New York City tavern in 1975. They will also hammer him for his positions on Second Amendment rights, and his support of President Clinton's 2001 pardon of Marc Rich - an issue they have pushed for over a month.

Ranking minority member Arlen Specter (R-PA) will bring Joseph Connor - whose father was killed in the 1975 bombing - to testify against Holder, along with Rick Hahn - who investigated the extremist organization responsible - and a pro-gun rights attorney, Stephen Halbrook of Virginia.

The GOP will also oppose hearings for Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner due to revelations of previously unpaid back taxes and his housekeeper's work permit problems. Although the bulk of the controversy is fairly mute, the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee want to see it get more air time.

In both cases, the GOP hopes to embarrass the President-Elect in the media - which will work especially well if they can use these controversies to derail the appointments.

As we have mentioned before, the Republican Party seems to be confused about whether or not to offer the President-Elect their support. Some have the philosophy that "when the President succeeds, America succeeds" and (more importantly) do not want to seem hyper-partisan. Others want to play to their base and stay critical of Obama at every possible corner. This confusion can be seen in the progress of the current confirmations.

Republicans certainly have the right to be critical of the Democratic administration - and they certainly have the right to offer Obama bipartisan support. But in order for their party to be effective in Congress they need to ask themselves "exactly what are our goals?" And they need to find an answer soon.

In yet another sign of confussion, Republican Senators have now agreed to conduct hearings for Geithner on January 21st.

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