IA-Sen: Conlin organizing against Shelby's "political extortion"

Whether you call it hostage-taking or shark-jumping, we can all agree that Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama is abusing Senate conventions by putting a blanket hold on all Obama administration nominees. Roxanne Conlin, one of three Democrats running against five-term incumbent Chuck Grassley of Iowa, may be the first Democratic candidate to organize against Shelby's power play. From an e-mail blast the Conlin campaign sent out today:

We will no longer tolerate business as usual in Washington. One Republican senator from Alabama is holding 70 important presidential nominations for ransom, because he wants sweetheart deals for a foreign airplane manufacturer that's given him more than $100,000 in political donations.

This seems like blackmail. Please click here to help me stop them.

Incumbent senators like Richard Shelby and Charles Grassley should look no further than their own actions if they are wondering why Americans are so angry. When they put holds on dozens of nominations, it means the Senate can't vote to confirm any nominees without 60 votes. But we can fight this -- by convincing just ONE Republican to break ranks.

Join me in my fight to fix Washington. I've created an easy tool at FightTheHold.com for you to join the fight because we must break this logjam. Sign up at FightTheHold.com and I'll send you an email with the contact info of a different Republican senator every single day until one of them has the courage to fight the hold and stop the gridlock. This way, we'll focus the attention of thousands of activists -- and the press -- completely on one senator instead of spreading ourselves too thin.

I'm running against Senator Grassley because he refuses to fix this mess. We can't repair our broken financial system because Assistant Secretaries of Commerce and the Treasury are being held up so the Senate can't vote to confirm them -- and their critical work goes undone. We are fighting two wars and the threat of Al Qaeda while crucial positions at the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security are being blocked.

I'm going to make our fight a national one. It will take just one Republican senator to step up and put people over party. And we're starting by sending messages to Chuck Grassley. Then we will choose another senator standing in the way and send him or her emails every day until we prevail.

Sign up at FightTheHold.com, because together we can get the politicians in Washington to start working for the American people again.

Please forward this message to everyone you know because the more people we get to join FightTheHold.com, the more likely we can end this political extortion.

A cynic might say this is just a list-building tactic for Conlin, but it's smart for Democrats to tie Shelby's blackmail to every Senate Republican. The public doesn't like hostage-takers, and it's a safe bet they don't respect people who enable hostage-takers. Focusing the media's attention on Shelby's abuse of power may prompt one or more Republicans to break ranks. Challengers like Conlin won't be able to do this alone. As Paul Waldman wrote here, Senate Democrats should force Republicans to pay a political price for Shelby's actions:

[T]hey'd have to have everyone go out and say, over and over so it would take over the news, that Richard Shelby and his Republican friends are despicable extortionists who will sabotage the operation of the United States government for the sake of some pork-barrel earmarks. They could also fit it into a larger narrative about nihilistic Republicans who care so little about the country's fate that they will do virtually anything to subvert the administration, no matter what the cost, if they think it will gain them some advantage or some pork. If Democrats made enough noise about it, Shelby would back down, and it might even convince Republicans to think twice the next time one of them considers undertaking this kind of extortion.

Republicans howled about Ben Nelson's "kickback" to Nebraska, which secured his vote for the health insurance reform bill. Make them explain why they are going along with Shelby now.



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It is

an abuse of power. A petulant display of arrogance.

It serves not the national interest. I'm beginning to think we need to have half the Senate elected nationally. That, of course, would require an Amendment. But beyond that, the Senate needs to reform itself.

It was once a debating for gentlemen (in the classic 18th century sense) but we are not living in the Age of Reason anymore. Ours is an age of irrationality.

And Richard Shelby's hostage taking of 70 executive nominees is simply inexcusable. The holds can be overcome but look at the process required to do so. Rather than lubricating the wheels of government, this kicks a bucket of sand in our collective faces.

by Charles Lemos 2010-02-06 09:33PM | 1 recs

I can almost garuntee that Shellby is receiving more mail in support of his action than from those oppossed to it.

by vecky 2010-02-06 10:04PM | 0 recs
RE: Depressing

Doesn't matter what's in Shelby's mail bag. Democrats needs to change Senate rules, but before doing that they need to educate the public about GOP abuse of power and putting petty interests ahead of the national interest. Otherwise GOP will claim changing Senate rules is  apower grab.

Few Americans understand that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to do anything now because of filibuster abuse. For decades, neither party has had 60 votes, but that didn't prevent the Senate from acting. Now it does, because Republicans are abusing the system.

by desmoinesdem 2010-02-06 10:15PM | 0 recs
RE: Depressing

Harry Reid is a spineless majority leader, so nothing will happen.

by vecky 2010-02-06 11:27PM | 0 recs
Hey vecky

we agree.

by srliberalguy 2010-02-07 03:37AM | 0 recs


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