FRANKEN DESCRIBES NOMINATING BREAKDOWN AS ‘NUTS’…. President Obama nominated Michael Punke to serve as the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, and his nomination was confirmed unanimously by the Senate Finance Committee three months ago. Islam Siddiqui was nominated to serve as the Chief Agriculture Negotiator, a position American food and agriculture groups desperately need to see filled.

Democrats want to give these nominees an up-or-down vote. Thanks to Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), they’re not getting one.

The Kentucky Republican battled Democrats on the Senate floor Tuesday to block two nominations to relatively backbench positions — because he is opposed to a tobacco-related law passed by the Canadian Parliament (that’s right, the Canadian Parliament). The use of such delaying tactics is not unprecedented in Senate history, but holding up such minor business stretches the purpose of the Senate’s open debate rules to the breaking point.

“This is a perversion of the filibuster and a perversion of the role of the Senate. It used to be that the filibuster was reserved for matters of great principle,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) from the well of the Senate. “Some of my colleagues seem more interested in using every procedural method possible to keep the Senate from doing anything than they are in creating jobs or helping Americans struggling in a difficult economy.”

It’s just so painful to see what Republicans are doing to destroy the Senate, and it’s encouraging to see several Dems, including a few moderates, argue that the status quo is simply untenable. The United States government wasn’t designed to function this way, and it quite obviously can’t.

Virginia’s Mark Warner (D), not exactly a bold progressive, explained to his colleagues, “Some of the very safeguards that were created to make this a serious and responsible deliberative body have been abused in a way that damages this institution.”

I found Franken’s remarks especially compelling:

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.