Nelson’s love of obstructionism

NELSON’S LOVE OF OBSTRUCTIONISM…. President Obama last year nominated Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. There can be no doubt about Becker’s qualifications — he’s been an associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union since 1990, has served as counsel for the AFL-CIO, and has spent his adult life working to protect the interests of America’s workers.

Last year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blocked a Senate vote on Becker’s nomination. So, the president re-nominated him last month. After Massachusetts’ special election, the nomination was in peril, but late yesterday, the Democrats’ most conservative senator crushed any hopes of overcoming Republican obstructionism.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced Monday evening that he will support a Republican-led filibuster over President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve on the National Labor Relations Board.

The move is likely to infuriate labor groups who have fought hard for Craig Becker’s nomination to serve on the five-member NLRB — and will likely give Republicans enough support to sustain a filibuster Tuesday.

Nelson, in a statement, accused Becker of wanting to “take an aggressive personal agenda to the NLRB.” As a result, Nelson not only decided to oppose Becker’s nomination, but insists on preventing the Senate from even having a vote on the nomination.

As frustrating as this is, also keep in mind that Nelson is actually taking a harder line on Obama’s nominees than Bush’s. Sam Stein reminds us of this report from May.

During the Bush/Cheney era, Nelson decried obstructionism, found filibusters against George W. Bush’s nominees offensive, and routinely voted with Republicans to cut off Democratic efforts. He explained that he believed Bush’s nominees “deserve an up-or-down vote,” even when the person in question “isn’t popular with the special-interest groups in Washington.”

So, when Democrats raised concerns about John Bolton’s U.N. nomination and Alberto Gonzales’s Attorney General nomination, for example, Nelson sided with Republicans against filibusters. Now, however, there’s a Democratic president, and Nelson is siding with Republicans in support of filibusters.

In other words, a senator who claims to be a Democrat will not let a Democratic Senate vote, up or down, on some of a Democratic president’s nominees. It’s not enough to vote against them, Nelson wants to prevent his own Democratic colleagues from voting on them at all.

This from a man who claims to oppose “obstructionism.”

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Steve Benen

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.