How to be a bad senator

HOW TO BE A BAD SENATOR…. A month ago, the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which at a minimum, should have meant that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) would finally lift her ridiculous hold on Jack Lew’s OMB nomination.

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. She was looking for a hostage, and he was a convenient choice.

More than a month later, the center-right Louisianan, still inclined to put the oil industry’s needs above all else, still can’t bring herself to do the responsible thing.

“My position is unchanged,” Landrieu, of Louisiana, told reporters on a conference call. “I’m very sympathetic to the administration’s position. I understand how difficult it is to go without a point person for the budget.”

Landrieu said she would consider lifting her block on Lew when a “clear path forward” is made for issuing permits for deepwater drilling in the Gulf.

“When that happens, I’ll consider releasing my hold,” she said.

Landrieu first demanded that the moratorium be lifted, and it was. But now she won’t release her hostage until she’s satisfied with the rate at which drilling permits are released — at which point she’ll “consider” letting the government function again as it should.

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 than happy to vote for his confirmation — just as soon as the oil industry seems fully satisfied. 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.

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