Yes, the mainstream media got it right: Betsy DeVos, widely detested and universally understood to be a completely unqualified Cabinet appointee, has been confirmed as Secretary of Education by the Senate.
And while a lot of people are disappointed, nobody’s really surprised by this.
First, when there were rumbles from the ranks, the confirmation of Sen. Sessions for Attorney General was rescheduled in order to ensure one more yes vote. But then two Republicans broke ranks to oppose her, which required the Vice President to cast the tiebreaking vote for her confirmation. This is the first time that’s ever happened for a Cabinet appointment. Usually, this is because cabinet members are either automatically confirmed, or, if the voting is contentious, it’s because of ability and not party politics and there’s a large swing one way or the other. This time around, though, the entire cabinet confirmation process has been stalled for mainly partisan reasons, and very few people are presently inclined to defy their party over something like this.
Which is kind of a pity. After all, even some of the hard-line conservatives agree that DeVos is patently incompetent, and the country as a whole is pretty solidly against her. (An informal poll run by the Baltimore Sun has her at 75% disapproval; that’s higher than other polls but not by much.) This is one of the few times when it would have caused very few Republicans to lose votes in their upcoming re-election to break ranks, and yet, precisely because the entire process has gotten so public and so very contentious, the opposition wasn’t able to sway enough to matter.
In general, it seems highly unlikely that any of the other nominations will be successfully opposed, which makes one wonder what the value is of tying up the Senate for an effort which will ultimately prove pointless.
Unless — unless! — the objective is to stall the Senate. After all, there’s one Senator who’s very likely to lose his seat soon; Sen. Sessions will probably be confirmed as Attorney General, and there’s no guarantee his replacement will be a hard-line Republican. And, even if he is — there’s only just so many days in the legislative calendar, about 130 or so, I think. For instance, the Senate gets a week off in February, one in March, two in April, the entire month of August… There’s very limited time to consider new laws as it is, and if the Cabinet appointments can be drawn out far enough, the legislative year may be a third over by the time anything important gets considered. Like the next Supreme Court nomination.
Or the Budget.
If you’ve been keeping track, the issue of passing a new Federal Budget has been hotly contested for nearly a decade, and the last time both houses passed all twelve annual appropriations bills was 1994. They just keep continuing the old budget, and that means there’s tax money going places it shouldn’t and other money not going places it should. There are programs that were enacted, never funded, and which will expire never having had a chance to begin. The American public is rather unhappy about this state of affairs, as one can well imagine.
(I’ll touch back on this in a later article, in which I’ll endorse corrupt pork-barrel spending. Stay tuned.)
And so one is forced to wonder: Just how long are the Senate Democrats planning to continue their fruitless obstruction? Is this just a stopgap measure until they can come up with an alternative plan? Are they just banking on the (fairly decent) chance that one or more Republican Senators will die in office?
Here’s the thing: Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency in large part because American voters are sick of all this fuss and bother in Washington that doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Whether you like it or not, it’s the Republicans who currently hold a majority, and that means they are the party that’s trying to make things happen, and that Democrats are obstructing. That’s not a popular stance over the long term.
But the other way to look at this — the way the Democratic leadership is seeing it — is that Donald Trump is the most unpopular president we’ve had since Nixon in Watergate. Opposing him is what the American people want, and so they’re going to fight tooth and nail on every issue, at every opportunity. And they’re going to give the American people what they want.
So the big question is, which of these two strategies will yield the best results in the midterm elections?
But wait — we’ve just had elections, right? Don’t you think it’s too early to be talking about the midterms? Well, Congress doesn’t. They’re running right now; they just haven’t announced yet. That’s what this is all about, and Bets– sorry, Secretary DeVos is perfectly incidental to the big question.