Senate Republicans’ habit of blocking Obama administration nominees for key government posts isn’t exactly new. But the case of Mari Carmen Aponte is a little different than most.

The president gave Aponte a recess appointment in 2010 to serve as the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, and now the administration wants her to be formally confirmed to the position, at least through 2012. GOP senators are balking, however, because they don’t like her ex-boyfriend from 20 years ago.

Gail Collins walks us through this farce.

[Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)] claimed the Republicans needed more information on Aponte’s relationship with Roberto Tamayo, a Cuban-American insurance salesman with whom she lived in Washington long ago.

A defecting Cuban intelligence agent claimed in 1993 that Fidel Castro’s spies were trying to recruit Aponte through Tamayo, who had friends at the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington. However, a retired U.S. counterintelligence agent told The Washington Times that Tamayo was, in fact, an informant for the F.B.I.

This sounds like a complicated boyfriend. However, who of us does not have a difficult significant other in the distant past? There has to be a statute of limitations on this sort of thing, and my vote would be for a decade, max.

If investigators had turned up evidence connecting Aponte to the Castro regime, then it would certainly be a legitimate issue. If there was any reason to believe Aponte had shared sensitive intelligence with her ex-boyfriend, obviously it would deserve extensive scrutiny. If there was any reason at all to believe Aponte had performed poorly in her job over the last year, Senate confirmation would deserve to be in doubt.

But none of that is true. She has no connections to the Cuban government; she never shared sensitive intelligence with anyone, and didn’t even have top-secret clearance until after she’d broken up with her ex-boyfriend; and Aponte has already been doing this job extremely well. The Senate should be thanking her and pleading with her to stay on the job.

But that’s not how Republicans operate in 2011.

At this point, it seems almost certain that the GOP minority will kill the Aponte nomination and her appointment will soon expire, sending her home.

The Senate’s descent into madness continues.

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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.