THE INTERNATIONAL CONSEQUENCES OF GOP OBSTRUCTIONISM…. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on the Hill yesterday, and explained to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that political obstructionism and “gridlock” are undermining the United States on the global stage.

Domestic political disputes are hurting America’s image abroad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lamented this morning during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. The hearing addressed the State Department’s fiscal year 2011 budget.

Clinton’s remarks were in reference to a number of President Obama’s diplomatic appointments that were held up by senators for political reasons over the past year.

“We’re now more than a year into a new administration and whether you agree or disagree with a particular policy, a president deserves to have the people that he nominates serving him,” Clinton said.

“It became harder and harder to explain to countries, particularly countries of significance, why we had nobody in position for them to interact with,” she added.

I imagine it would have to be quite difficult for officials in other countries to understand why key American posts were left vacant for months, or worse, are still empty now. What’s the Secretary of State supposed to say, “Well, I’m terribly sorry, Prime Minister, but we have no under-secretary for you to work with because Richard Shelby wants some pork for Alabama”?

Or maybe, “I’d like to refer you, Foreign Minister, to our ambassador, but more than a year after the president took office, only a majority of our Senate approves of the nomination, which means she can’t get confirmed”?

Clinton also told the senators, “As we sell democracy, and we are the lead democracy in the world, I want the world to know we have checks and balances but we also have the capacity to move, too.”

The consequences of Republicans denying up-or-down votes to key administration nominees go beyond mere annoyance. Deliberately or not, the genuinely scandalous GOP tactics are not only blocking the ability of policymakers to govern domestically, but also undercutting U.S. influence around the world.

“People don’t understand the way our system operates, they just don’t get it,” Clinton added. “And their view does color whether the United States … is in a position going forward to demonstrate the kind of unity and strength and effectiveness that I think we have to in this very complex and dangerous world.”

If only Republicans could get past their petty partisanship long enough to care.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.