EMPTY CHAIRS…. Democrats were pretty aggressive yesterday in going after Sen. Richard Shelby (R), after the right-wing Alabama lawmaker put a blanket hold on 70 administration nominees. For Shelby, he’ll consider letting the Senate vote on the officials, just as soon as he gets some defense earmarks for his state. The outrageous abuse was quickly labeled the “Shelby Shakedown,” and drew rebukes from the White House on down.

Late yesterday, the DNC released a web video, called “Empty Chairs,” emphasizing that Shelby’s ridiculous stunt actually undermines the national security interests of the United States.

In a statement, the DNC’s national press secretary, Hari Sevugan, explained, “President Obama has nominated qualified, talented people for critical vacancies related to our national security and other issues – and the President has called for an end to Washington politics as usual — but Republicans would rather play politics than do what is right. The American people are sick and tired of it. And, with Senator Shelby’s blanket hold on ALL nominees, they can no longer claim that their obstruction is about qualifications. It’s about politics plain and simple. And for putting politics ahead of the nation’s security they should be ashamed.”

It’s political rhetoric that has the added advantage of being true.

Now, this clip is a web video, not a broadcast ad, and it remains to be seen whether the DNC intends to push this as far more than just a one-day story. That said, there are rumors that party officials are just getting started with this, and may soon air television commercials hitting Shelby and the GOP over the controversy.

Democrats have been searching in vain for a way to make the obstructionism issue more salient to the public. The Shelby Shakedown offers a terrific opportunity, which Dems hope to take advantage of.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.