MITCH MCCONNELL’S ANTI-GOVERNING CRUSADE…. It was a fairly busy week on Capitol Hill, and an effort to clear some of the backlog of unconfirmed nominees slipped largely under the radar. That’s a shame; what transpired was important.

There are, at present, about 240 administration nominees waiting for a confirmation vote, an almost comically ridiculous number given how long they’ve been waiting. On Thursday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) tried to reduce the number by seeking unanimous consent to approve about a third of the pending nominees as a bloc. The total of about 80 officials was made up of nominees who’d already been through the vetting process, had already been approved by the relevant committee, and were filling government posts that are currently vacant.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused. It wasn’t because the nominees weren’t qualified; it was because McConnell’s feelings were hurt when the White House gave a recess appointment to Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board earlier this year.

And so, important government posts remain vacant, and qualified officials wait patiently for months (or years) for no apparent reason, because Mitch McConnell isn’t especially concerned with whether our federal government has the personnel in place to function as it’s supposed to.

James Fallows explained what a ridiculous mess this is.

[I]t is bad for America to leave so much of its governmental and diplomatic leadership vacant for months or years at the beginning of each administration — and it’s worse, in the long run, to allow a process that makes many talented people think, Why would I ever want to go through that? Why would I want to spend half a year on the financial and security vetting, during which time I was not supposed even to tell my friends I was being considered; and then another half-year being ready to switch from my normal life to a new role somewhere else, but not knowing when that would happen, if ever?

Mitch McConnell objects to Craig Becker’s role on the NLRB? Fine. Let him make his case. But can we stand a system that allows him to gum up the whole rest of the government at his whim? Rule by laws, not men, is supposed to be the idea here. For now the main countervailing force is to put a spotlight on the petulant men behaving this way.

It’s yet another reminder that Republican lawmakers are, far too often, fundamentally unserious about their duties. I realize these kinds of developments remain invisible to the typical American voter, but that’s unfortunate. There’s no reason to reward a child-like political party that punishes the country over petty piques and tired tantrums.

There’s nothing wrong with the design of the system. It doesn’t function the way it should because reckless and irresponsible miscreants refuse to let it function.

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.