A farcical process

A FARCICAL PROCESS…. Five months ago, President Obama nominated Tom Shannon to be the U.S. ambassador to Brazil. Shannon is strong, almost obvious, choice — he’s been Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs for the last five years; he’s a career Foreign Service officer; and he enjoys a strong relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Shannon sailed through the confirmation hearings, and would have been easily approved by the Senate, if only the nomination could be brought to the floor. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) put a months-long hold on Shannon, blocking a vote. Last week, DeMint finally agreed to let the nomination proceed to the floor.

So, the Senate can vote now? No, now there’s another Republican hold.

There may be no better example of how the Senate’s holds and filibusters work now than this one — Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.), who holds his job because his political ally Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) appointed him in September, has placed a hold on the Obama administration’s nominee for ambassador to Brazil. Tom Shannon’s nomination is on hold so LeMieux can “discuss my concerns” and “fully vet” him.

LeMieux didn’t identify what those “concerns” are, or why he didn’t seek answers to these questions before now.

It’s just another day in a legislative chamber that Republicans have apparently broken on purpose.

Keep in mind, these farcical antics have real-world consequences. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, believes his own GOP colleagues are undermining U.S. foreign policy by forcing these delays.

“I am concerned that unnecessary delays in confirming this outstanding and highly regarded career diplomat are beginning to impede our ability to work with Brazil on pressing regional issues, such as the resolution of the crisis in Honduras,” Lugar said yesterday. “Coordination on regional matters is in the interests of our two countries and the region.”

If only it was in the interests of the rest of the Senate Republican caucus.