Jon Kyl’s dangerous priorities

JON KYL’S DANGEROUS PRIORITIES…. President Obama has nominated a variety of well-qualified officials to fill key posts in the Treasury Department, including positions with jurisdiction over tax policy and international finance. Their nominations would be approved if the Senate were allowed to vote on them.

But that’s not happening, because Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) isn’t satisfied with — get this — enforcement of prohibitions on internet gambling. Kyl wanted enforcement in January, the administration said June, so Kyl effectively responded, “No Treasury Department officials for you.”

Matt Yglesias summarized this nicely.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is your modern United States Senate. If there’s some random crap that nobody cares about, it just takes one Senator with a bee in his bonnet to ruin everything for everyone who would like to live in a country with a properly administered government. There are six Treasury nominees still awaiting action being held up by Kyl.

You might think it would be a good idea to have an Under Secretary for International Affairs. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Under Secretary for Domestic Finance. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Assistant Secretary for International Economics and Development. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets. Kyl disagrees. You might think it would be a good idea to have an Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy. Kyl disagrees.

This kind of thing really has to stop, it’s a ludicrous way to run a country. Amidst a global economic meltdown, we can’t get confirmation for the international economics officials. Not because the Senate has a problem with them, but because one guy isn’t happy with the delay of some internet gambling regulations.

Look, I realize that the occasional senator is going to play petty and unnecessary games from time to time. But Obama has been in office for nearly a year. We’re struggling to overcome a global financial crisis. Key offices relating to the economy are vacant because Jon Kyl is pouting over a six-month delay in implementing regulations on internet gambling. There’s simply no way to defend this.

As former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker recently put it, “How can we run a government in the middle of a financial crisis without doing the ordinary, garden-variety administrative work of filling the relevant agencies?”

Senate Republicans are acting like children playing with matches. Jon Kyl isn’t some random backbencher, he’s the #2 Republican in the chamber. Presumably, he’s in a position to realize the adverse consequences — for the government, for the administration, for the entire country — of his indefensible obstructionism.

A mature, functioning democracy simply can’t operate this way and expect to thrive. Kyl, a genuinely painful buffoon, believes Republicans are capable of leading and handling their responsibilities. He can prove it by starting to act like a grown-up for a change.