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Editorial: Stall tactics continue

The stall tactics employed by Republicans in the U.S. Senate to delay confirmation of Chuck Hagel as President Barack Obama's secretary of defense demonstrate that the minority party isn't likely to change the obstructionist ways it employed for the past four years and that it will continue to put party politics over what is good for the country.

Citing the Senate's historian, Donald Ritchie, the Associated Press reported last week that throughout the country's history, "just 5 percent of Cabinet nominees have been killed by the Senate or withdrawn when confirmation appeared impossible. And only twice has a Cabinet-level nominee been subject to a cloture vote. It's far more common to filibuster judicial nominee."

Everyone seems to be in general agreement that Hagel's nomination will get a vote and that he will be confirmed, probably later this month.

Given that, the delay tactics employed by Republicans last week serve only to cement the image of them as obstructionists.

And while the Senate historian noted that filibustering of judicial nominees is more common, Republican obstructionism was so bad in the Senate during Obama's first term that the Senate actually changed the rules.

According to the Associated Press, nearly half of Obama's judicial nominees have waited more than 100 days for confirmation. That compares to about 10 percent of President George W. Bush's nominees who waited that long because Democrats blocked votes.

Nationwide, the AP reported, 90 out of 874 federal judgeships are vacant, with 31 of those vacancies labeled emergencies by the judiciary because of heavy caseloads.

It would be one thing if votes were delayed because senators had serious reservations about the nominee.

Most often, however, that isn't the case. Usually if they do come up for a vote the support is overwhelming. One example is last week's confirmation of William Kayatta, of Maine, to the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was nominated more than a year ago but Republicans refused to vote on the nomination.

As a result, Obama had to nominate him again. When they voted last week, Kayatta received 88 votes.

The changes made to Senate rules will help speed the process for judicial nominees.

Thirteen nominees were confirmed last week. But the games that the GOP senators are playing with Hagel's nomination suggest that the party and policies which voters rejected in November appear committed to bringing back the same obstructionist playbook for this session of Congress.

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