Many political bloggers are criticizing Senator Jon Kyl’s recent tactic of stalling Treasury appointments in response to delays in the implementation of his Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The Republican senator is well known for his disapproval of gambling and he seems to be taking it to a new level by blocking approved Treasury nominees from starting to fix the rattled American economy. He is allegedly doing this to retaliate for the Obama administration’s postponement of the UIGEA’s enforcement until June.
The main issue is one of scale – while the gambling issue affects only a sector of the population, the appointment of Treasury officials affects the country’s governability and its ability to face the current financial crisis. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker showed his concern about this recently in an interview with Charlie Rose:
(It is) almost a year after the Inauguration, and there is no Under Secretary of the Treasury. That should be an important position. How can we run a government in the middle of a financial crisis without doing the ordinary, garden-variety administrative work of filling the relevant agencies?
Senator Kyl’s hold is preventing six appointed officials from getting to work: the Under Secretary for International Affairs, the Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, the Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development, the Assistant Secretary for International Economics and Development, the Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets, and the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy. All of these posts are clearly of great importance to the Obama government and, even for the most hardcore poker fans, it should be clear that they ought to have a much higher priority than the UIGEA’s implementation or repeal.
Blogger Pat Garofalo at The Wonk Room is not a poker person, but he objects to Senator Kyl’s actions and points out how unfunded his hold is:
Now, I don’t have much of a position on these internet gambling regulations, but suffice to say, a six month delay in implementing them doesn’t seem like the end of the world — and it appears that most of the Senate agrees. But Kyl’s action really does highlight how far conservatives have gone to prevent Obama’s appointed officials from doing their jobs.
One of the nominees that Kyl is holding, Michael Mundaca, served in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, so his nomination can’t be all that controversial.
Political expert Matthew Yglesias, of the Think Progress Center, is a lot harsher in his assessment of Kyl’s hold on these nominations, even though he is not a poker man either:
This, ladies and gentlemen, is your modern United States Senate. If there’s some random crap that nobody cares about, it just takes one Senator with a bee in his bonnet to ruin everything for everyone who would like to live in a country with a properly administered government. There are six Treasury nominees still awaiting action being held up by Kyl.
(This is) a ludicrous way to run a country. Amidst a global economic meltdown, we can’t get confirmation for the international economics officials. Not because the senate has a problem with them, but because one guy isn’t happy with the delay of some internet gambling regulations.
The hold rule itself is in fact nonexistent; it is more of a convention left over from more polite times, which lost its original purpose and became a way of throwing a spanner in the works whenever there is controversy on an issue of non-vital importance (in this case, gaming). Yglesias explained the gist of this process in Newsweek: “When a senator places a hold on some piece of business it’s a signal that unless the majority leader respects the wish to keep the item bottled up, the senator will start objecting to the unanimous consent motions by which the Senate conducts its routine business.” It seems that Senator Kyl’s consent regarding the new Treasury officials will remain withheld until the UIGEA regulations are made effective.
Fox Business contributor John Stossel summarizes what all poker players think about Senator Jon Kyl’s fixation on banning internet gambling in an article provocatively titled “Right-wing Nanny State”, where he states “A good rule of thumb: if you were smart enough to earn your money, you know better than government busybodies what to do with it.”