Lew and Landrieu’s lost loyalties

LEW AND LANDRIEU’S LOST LOYALTIES…. Whether one approves or disapproves of the decision to lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, it seemed as if there’d be at one procedural upside: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) would finally lift her outrageous hold on Jack Lew’s OMB nomination. At least, that’s what I’d hoped would happen.

Lew was poised to be confirmed easily as White House Office of Management and Budget’s new director, but Landrieu intervened, blocking the nomination until the drilling moratorium was overturned. What do Lew and the OMB have to do with drilling? Nothing.

Yesterday, the center-right Democrat was pleased with the Obama administration’s move on the moratorium, but said she’s not quite done shilling for the oil industry. Yesterday’s announcement was “good,” but it’s not enough.

Landrieu, who called the announcement “a good start,” said it was not enough for her to release her hold on the nomination of Jacob Lew to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. […]

In her statement Tuesday, Landrieu said she would monitor the administration’s handling of drilling permits before deciding whether to let Lew’s nomination go forward.

“When Congress reconvenes for the lame-duck session next month, I will have had several weeks to evaluate if today’s lifting of the moratorium is actually putting people back to work,” she said.

In other words, Landrieu and the oil industry wanted a lift on the moratorium, which the Obama administration delivered. But the oil companies might not be entirely satisfied just yet, so Landrieu wants to delay the ability of the government to function a little longer, to ensure that the industry really is fully pleased.

Keep in mind, Landrieu doesn’t object to Jack Lew. On the contrary, she’s described him as an “outstanding” choice to head the OMB, and would be more to happy to vote for his confirmation. It’s just that she’s looking for a hostage, and Lew became a convenient choice to exploit — as soon as Landrieu is sure the oil industry is happy, she’ll be gracious enough to let the Senate vote on a key nominee. Until then, she just doesn’t care about the consequences.

In this case, those consequences aren’t just minor inconveniences. The Office of Management and Budget is poised to start writing the 2012 budget, and it needs a budget director. But there is no budget director, because Mary Landrieu, in a move that’s been fairly described as “both absurd and irresponsible,” has decided her demands are more important the administration’s ability to govern.

White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs yesterday called Landrieu’s hold “outrageous,” adding that senators should evaluate Lew “on the merits of being a budget director,” instead of “playing politics with issues that are ancillary to what he does.”

Landrieu’s reckless stunt is an embarrassment to the institution, and makes the need for Senate reform even more painfully obvious.