When we vote for a U.S. senator, the last thing we are hoping he brings to the position is a penchant for embarrassing us. Unfortunately, with Sen. Mike Lee, that seems to be at the top of his skill-set.
For the past six months, Utah's freshman senator has been throwing the political equivalent of a schoolyard tantrum, refusing to vote to confirm nominees to the federal judiciary over a perceived slight from President Barack Obama.
As was pointed out in The Salt Lake Tribune recently, Lee's "campaign" against the president hasn't been popular, even among those of his own party, as just one other senator joined him in his protest (and only on one of the votes). Despite Lee's petulance, the Senate, including virtually all other Republican members, has succeeded in confirming judicial and other White House nominees. One can only assume that Lee had expected that others would jump on his obstructionist bandwagon. But, alas, he stands alone.
To be fair, the senator works in an arena that is not always used for honest and open discussion, especially in the current political climate. But he has taken partisanship to a whole new level by refusing to confirm even those judicial nominees he actually supports.
In Utah, we've been short on federal judges for years, and Lee stated, for the record, that he approved of Robert Shelby and David Nuffer both recently approved nominees to the federal bench. But he refused to vote in favor of their confirmation for the sole reason that they were nominated by the Obama administration.
This temper tantrum has gone on long enough. It's time for Lee to start acting like a senator. In Washington it takes political capital to get things done that is, the ability to persuade colleagues to support your proposals in exchange for considering theirs. Achieving success requires negotiation leading to a quid-pro-quo solution. But if a U.S. senator embarrasses himself too much or too frequently, it drastically reduces his effectiveness and the respect that otherwise would be accorded him. Sadly, Lee apparently is willing to sacrifice respect and effectiveness for a ludicrous line in the quicksand.
This isn't the first time Lee has stepped on his own feet, either. Who could forget last November when he attempted to hold a committee hearing on the Hill? The only catch was that the committee didn't actually exist.
Capitol police politely asked him to move the meeting off of the Capitol grounds, as attempting to hold a fake committee meeting violates Capitol rules. But that didn't stop Lee from posturing for the cameras and lashing out at the officers men and women dedicated to protecting him and his fellows with claims that he was being silenced.
Utah needs both its senators. We rely on them to serve us by working to address real problems, such as how to bring more jobs into the state and how to adequately fund our schools. We didn't elect Mike Lee to play adolescent games, and we don't pay him $174,000 a year to hide the bathroom key.
We deserve better, sir. We deserve a senator.
Maryann Martindale is executive director of Alliance for a Better UTAH.