Senate on strike
Republicans fail in their duty
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Try this at work: Don't do a very important part of your job for several months. When your boss finally catches on, say you are refusing to perform that task as a way of protesting the fact that some guy in another department is doing his job in a way you don't like.

Then write and tell us where your next job is.

This is exactly what the United States Senate has been doing in regard to its constitutional duty to confirm judges appointed by the president. This childish stunt has left the federal bench seriously undermanned for months, a situation that will not be rectified for several more months, at least.

For a long time now, Utah's Sen. Mike Lee was the most vocal advocate of a foolish plan to oppose every one of President Obama's nominees, for executive or judicial office, to demonstrate senatorial pique over Obama's approach for getting around other examples of Republican obstructionism.

The president was using the constitutionally vague, but frequently employed, method known as a recess appointment to install officers he wanted to run agencies he supported. Republican senators, also using a legally questionable tactic with bipartisan roots, were claiming that the recess appointments were invalid because the Senate wasn't in recess.

Obama claimed the Senate meetings that did go on were shams meant to frustrate such activities as putting someone atop the new Consumer Protection Bureau. But even if Lee were correct in his constitutional interpretation, that would not excuse the Senate from its duty to hold the functioning of basic government activities above partisan bickering.

That bickering escalated in recent weeks, as Senate Republicans invoked something called The Thurmond Rule — named for one of the most disreputable personages to ever darken the floor of the Senate, arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond of South Carolina — and cancel all votes on appeals court judgeships. The last chance to set aside that tactic came Monday, on a vote concerning the appointment of an unopposed appeals court nominee from Oklahoma, a vote that Lee missed and on which Sen. Orrin Hatch abstained.

The "rule" allows the party that doesn't control the White House to frustrate a sitting president's last chance to pack the judiciary during his last months in office — if, as the other party hopes, they are his last months in office.

Both parties have pulled the same trick. But it is politics, not governing. It also effectively ends a president's term months ahead of schedule.

That a self-described constitutional purist such as Lee would frustrate the clear intent of the Constitution in this way is disgraceful.