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Shelby Shakedown Morphs Into Mini-Shakedown

Richard Shelby has decided to drop most of his blanket hold on President Obama’s nominees, saying that he “got the attention” of the executive branch about his pork barrel projects in his home state of Alabama. This is the statement forwarded by his office:

“The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House’s attention on two issues that are critical to our national security – the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI’s Terrorist Device Analytical Center (TEDAC). With that accomplished, Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition until the new Request for Proposal is issued. The Air Force tanker acquisition is not an ‘earmark’ as has been reported; it is a competition to replace the Air Force’s aging aerial refueling tanker fleet. Sen. Shelby is not seeking to determine the outcome of the competition; he is seeking to ensure an open, fair and transparent competition that delivers the best equipment to our men and women in uniform. Sen. Shelby is fully justified in his concern given the history and current status of this acquisition.”

I don’t know what “get the attention of the White House” means, and I’m trying to find out. Particularly because he’s still holding nominees over the refueling tanker, also known as the Airbus deal, does this mean that TEDAC will, then, get sited in Shelby’s home state of Alabama? Or was the public pressure on Shelby enough for him to relent?

Marcy has the list of remaining nominees Shelby has under hold. All are Air Force nominations.

But what exactly does this mean for other nominees? The past practice is that one Republican senator picks off a nominee or two for parochial reasons, forcing a week’s worth of debate and a cloture vote. I’d be surprised if that changed, actually. Shelby releasing his holds just means that other GOPers will step up. And the dysfunction continues.

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David Dayen

David Dayen