Childish retaliation

Distraught by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s rejection of Charles Pickering’s proposed appointment to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, some Senate Republicans’ actions – most notably those of Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. – have taken a turn for the infantile. The first rejection of one of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees has incensed the senator – a personal friend of Pickering, a Mississippi native – and many of his colleagues, prompting them to block any Democratic legislation they can get their hands on.

Like children throwing a baseball into the neighbor’s yard because their man was called “out,” Republicans last week shut down two committee hearings dealing with Enron-related regulations. The most substantial of the two bills being considered will, if passed, limit the amount of employees’ 401(k) money employers can invested in their company’s stock. Authored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the bill would prevent employers from funneling money and stock options into their own companies which, as Enron proved, can artificially inflate the stock’s value and, at worst, result in the elimination of pensions if the company goes under. How a politician could conscience such a move simply to strike back at something such as Pickering’s rejection is unclear. What is clear, however, is whether those who blocked this legislation out of retaliation can be trusted to keep their constituents’ best interests in mind.

Perhaps even more disturbing, on March 15 – the day after the Judiciary Committee sent Pickering packing – Lott blocked a request from that committee for $1.5 million to investigate why intelligence agencies failed to stop the Sept. 11 attacks. This investigation could answer some of the most basic questions the American people have been asking since then and, more important, might help ensure U.S. citizens do not again wake up to the news that 3,000 people have suddenly been murdered. Karl Rove would do well to think twice before again labeling one party as more trustworthy regarding the execution of the war on terrorism.

Granted, Democrats must come up with set criteria on which they will judge future judicial nominees. Such criteria would expedite the confirmation process, and adherence to standards would help ensure fairness for nominees who are in the gray area between qualified and not.

In the meantime, Republicans must stop this childish stonewalling of anything not written by one of their own. With the United States in the midst of a war on terrorism and a recession, and only a few months after the worst bankruptcy in U.S. history, Congress can ill afford this willful inaction. More to the point, the American people deserve better.