MEET MARTHA JOHNSON…. The General Services Administration has been without a permanent administrator for nearly three years. Given the GSA’s role in helping the basic structure of the federal government operate — managing federal contracts, finding office space, providing materials and supplies to various agencies — it’s a bad idea to leave the department with no leadership for so long.
President Obama nominated Martha Johnson to head the GSA nine months ago. Her background and qualifications made her a terrific choice; Johnson had even served previously as a chief of staff for the agency. She knows the complex GSA system inside and out, and was ready to get to work. Her nomination was approved at the committee level with unanimous support from both parties.
But the Senate couldn’t vote on her nomination. Sen. Kit Bond (R) of Missouri put a “hold” on Johnson because he wanted the administration to spend more money on a federal building in Kansas City.
And so Johnson waited. And waited some more.
Today, literally nine months to the day after being chosen by the president, Martha Johnson’s nomination was allowed to come to the Senate floor. She was confirmed — 96 votes to zero.*
When there’s a 96-0 vote, it tells us that this was a fine nominee, who shouldn’t have had to wait nine months for an up-or-down vote.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer described this ridiculousness as “a perfect example of why Americans are so frustrated with Washington.”
Martha Johnson is hardly the first nominee to fall victim to this trend of opposition for opposition’s sake. Nine of the President’s nominees found themselves stuck in this same situation only to be confirmed by 70 or more votes or a voice vote. Several nominees, including two members of the Council of Economic Advisers, had cloture withdrawn and were passed by a voice vote.
Maybe votes on these nominations were delayed as a bargaining chip for someone’s pet project — more likely it was part of a political strategy of opposition and obstruction at all costs. Whatever the reason, it’s obvious from the margins of the final votes that it had little to do with their qualifications. […]
What’s clear from all of this is that we need to change the way business is done in this city.
Truer words were never spoken.
* Update: The original roll-call vote was listed as 94 to 2, but two GOP senators (Bunning and Sessions) later switched their votes, making it 96 to 0.