Shutdown Redux

The Republican Party has once again shut down the government. This government shutdown has not been splashed across the front pages of papers across the country and it wasn't the top story on the evening news. This time, instead of shutting down the entire federal government they shut down Congress.

The Republican Party's record on government is well documented. They want to slash Social Security, eliminate Medicare, get rid of the Department of Education, gut food security programs and throw out regulations that help the poor, protect the environment, keep our food safe and stop Wall Street banks from once again tanking our economy.

Unable to win a national election to implement this radical agenda, the Republicans instead spent much of the last year manufacturing crisis after crisis until they eventually successfully shut down the government. But almost immediately this plan backfired as poll after poll showed the American public blamed the Republicans for the damage caused by the shutdown. The party's poll numbers hit historic lows.

Needing a new strategy, Republicans have turned to a tried and true one from their past -- pure obstruction. By abusing the Senate rules and allowing the minority party to shut down the entire Senate, Republicans are blocking nominations to several key government positions. In many ways the Republicans accomplished virtually the same thing that the first shutdown did, just without the public relations backlash.

As The Huffington Post recently reported, more than 20 of President Obama's nominees for key positions throughout the government are either currently being blocked by Republicans or were blocked and ultimately withdrew from the process.

Take for example the unprecedented vote to block Congressman Mel Watt, who has been nominated to be the first permanent head in six years of the Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA). Not since before the Civil War has a sitting member of Congress been denied confirmation for a cabinet-level position. Yet recently in their effort to shut down the Senate, and in effect the government, Republicans denied Congressman Watt the dignity of an up or down vote, despite his 40 years of experience with housing finance and strong bipartisan credentials.

The Watt confirmation is a perfect example of the Republicans' new shutdown strategy. The FHFA director oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and by extension well over half of the mortgages in this country. These two entities directly impact millions of homeowners nationwide as well as their families, neighborhoods, our entire housing market and the future of our economy.

By denying Representative Watt a fair vote, the Republicans rob us of steady, permanent oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. By denying well-qualified judges a fair vote they rob us of a well functioning justice system.

Republicans know this. This is the heart of their plan. By obstructing nominations to key agencies and judgeships they can accomplish what they were unable to do with the very public government shutdown last month -- bring government to a screeching halt. Except this time they can do it without the media glare and the resulting bad public relations and poll numbers.

The way forward is clear. As Republicans continue to block highly qualified nominees like Rep. Watt from receiving an up-or-down vote, Senator Reid must make good on his threat to change the Senate rules.

Senators were elected to govern, not shut down and obstruct. People's homes, neighborhoods, and our economy can no longer remain pawns in a political game. If Republican Senators continue to shut down democracy, then we must reclaim and reform it.