Media Slam GOP Senator’s Obstruction Of Army Secretary Nominee

Media are decrying Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts’ obstruction of Eric Fanning’s nomination to be Army Secretary as “unreasonable intransigence” and “part of larger inaction” by Congress to undermine President Obama’s federal nominations.

Senate Blocks Eric Fanning’s Confirmation As Army Secretary

GOP Senator Blocks Fanning’s Confirmation “Over An Unrelated Issue.” After President Obama nominated Eric Fanning to be secretary of the Army, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) “placed a hold on Fanning’s nomination over an unrelated issue: opposition to Obama’s push to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,” The Huffington Post reports. Fanning’s qualifications include having served “in senior positions in the Defense Department, including acting undersecretary of the Army, special assistant to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and undersecretary of the Air Force.” Fanning would be the first openly gay Army secretary, according to Huffington Post. [The Huffington Post, 1/11/16]

Media Slam Senate Obstruction As A “Baffling” “Political Game”

NY Times Editorial Board: GOP Lawmakers’ “Unreasonable Intransigence” Has Made Confirmations Like Fanning’s “A Political Game.” The New York Times’ editorial board lambasted Senate Republicans’ “unreasonable intransigence” over confirming senior federal officials, including Fanning, writing, “It’s clear that for Republican lawmakers, carrying out political vendettas and thwarting the president’s prerogatives are more important than having a functioning government.” The board slammed Roberts for “holding Mr. Fanning’s nomination hostage,” which “has left the Army, which has a $140 billion yearly budget and more than one million soldiers, without a civilian leader with the authority to set priorities and address the needs of a force that has been at war since 2001.” From the March 22 New York Times editorial:

The refusal by Senate Republicans to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court vacancy has rightly prompted indignation. But it is only the most glaring example of unreasonable intransigence by lawmakers who have turned the process of appointing senior federal officials into a political game.

The nominations of many of the 143 people awaiting confirmation for nonjudicial federal jobs are stalled in the Senate as committee heads and the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, dither and delay. The result is a federal bureaucracy with an ever-growing number of corners subject to paralysis and indecision. It’s clear that for Republican lawmakers, carrying out political vendettas and thwarting the president’s prerogatives are more important than having a functioning government.


Meanwhile, the post of secretary of the Army has been vacant since Nov. 1. Eric Fanning, who has had a swift rise at the Department of Defense, was nominated for the job in September. The Armed Services Committee didn’t schedule a hearing for him until January and waited until early March to vote in favor of the nomination. The full Senate has yet to schedule a confirmation vote. That has left the Army, which has a $140 billion yearly budget and more than one million soldiers, without a civilian leader with the authority to set priorities and address the needs of a force that has been at war since 2001.


Mr. McConnell and his colleagues are driven by a desire to retaliate against the administration when they have lost policy debates. So we have Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas holding Mr. Fanning’s nomination hostage over the administration’s efforts to shut down the prison at Guantánamo Bay. [The New York Times, 3/22/16]

Wash. Post’s Jonathan Capehart: “Eric Fanning And The Army Deserve Better Than This From Congress.” The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart decried Roberts’ obstruction of Fanning’s confirmation as a “part of larger inaction” by Congress “on Obama’s efforts against the Islamic State.” In an op-ed headlined “Eric Fanning and the Army deserve better than this from Congress,” Capehart said that Roberts’ obstruction -- which “has nothing to do with Fanning,” but rather is rooted in his opposition to Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay -- “is not needed” and is only making “matters worse.”  From the May 11 Washington Post opinion piece:

Eric Fanning was first nominated secretary of the Army on Sept. 18, 2015. That’s 236 days ago. He was made acting secretary when his predecessor stepped down last November. But Fanning was forced to step aside last January when procedural objections were raised about his being in the job before being confirmed. His nomination sailed out of the Senate armed services committee on March 10. But there has been no floor vote because Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) put a hold on Fanning’s nomination.

The reason has nothing to do with Fanning. Roberts is ticked off that Obama wants to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo and bring the detainees to the United States. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) went to the Senate floor on April 28 to implore Roberts to lift the hold. “Mr. Fanning is clearly qualified,” McCain said after rattling off the nominee’s impressive military career to date and making it plain that the president’s Guantanamo plans were going nowhere. In response, Roberts said, “I want to make it very clear, as a veteran, a Marine, I support the nominee for this post.” The Kansas Republican even acknowledged, “My hold on Eric Fanning’s nomination is not in relation to his capabilities, his expertise or his character.” And while Roberts insisted that his hold on Fanning’s nomination was “certainly not intended to bring undue stress to our United States Army,” the largest branch of the armed forces remains without a permanent chief. His concern is not needed. Removing his hold on the Fanning nomination is. [The Washington Post, 5/11/16]

MSNBC’s Steve Benen: Senate GOP Is “Throw[ing] An Unnecessary Tantrum … Because One Member Is Worried About A Maximum-Security Detention Facility Housing Dangerous People.”  MSNBC producer Steve Benen slammed Roberts for “choos[ing] to make” Fanning’s confirmation a politicized issue “because he can.” Benen noted that the obstruction is “a familiar tale,” following a pattern in which “President Obama sends a qualified nominee to the Senate; Republicans throw an unnecessary tantrum; and the nominee suffers indefinite delays.” Benen wrote, “The Senate can’t find any reason to object, but it intends to block the nomination because one member is worried about” an unrelated issue, and suggested, “Maybe these aren’t the kinds of circumstances we should get used to?” From the January 25 MSNBC opinion piece:

Given the responsibilities of the Army Secretary, Fanning’s breadth of experience makes him an obvious choice. Which is why it’s all the more noteworthy that he’s unlikely to ever see a confirmation vote.


“I want to stress that it’s nothing personal,” Roberts said. “It’s just the way it is.”

Except it’s not. It’s the way Roberts chooses to make it.

The American military’s only domestic maximum-security prison happens to be in Kansas, and Pat Roberts is apparently concerned about putting a group of dangerous people in it, so he’s taken it upon himself to block a would-be Army Secretary – because he can.

I realize that for much of the political world, this is the ultimate dog-bites-man story. President Obama sends a qualified nominee to the Senate; Republicans throw an unnecessary tantrum; and the nominee suffers indefinite delays. It’s a familiar tale.

But there’s another way to look at this. We’re talking about a situation in which the White House sent a qualified nominee to the Senate to be Secretary of the Army during a war. The Senate can’t find any reason to object, but it intends to block the nomination because one member is worried about a maximum-security detention facility housing dangerous people.

Maybe these aren’t the kinds of circumstances we should get used to? [, 1/25/16]

Media Have Also Decried Senate GOP’s Obstruction Of Obama’s SCOTUS Nomination

NY Times: Republicans' “Dangerous” And “Unprecedented” Obstruction Could Forever Damage “The Process Of Nominating Supreme Court Justices.” A March 16 New York Times editorial chastised Senate Republicans' “stupendous show of political malfeasance” in blocking Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, slamming the GOP's “unprecedented” and “dishonest” blockade as “a dangerous new role for the Senate, one that could turn the court into nothing more than a group of black-robed politicians.” Not only did the Times editorial board warn Republicans that “this intransigence is unlikely to win votes for the party in November,” but it also lamented that the GOP obstruction could damage the Supreme Court nominating process "'beyond repair.’” [The New York Times, 3/16/16]

Wash. Post: “Dear GOP: Stop Playing Politics And Give Merrick Garland A Confirmation Hearing.” A March 16 Washington Post editorial excoriated Senate Republicans for “putting politics above their essential responsibilities,” urging that “Mr. Garland ... get confirmation hearings, and after those a straight up-or-down vote.” The Post editorial board denounced the practice of drawing “arbitrary lines circumscribing what presidents or senators should be able to do in the run-up to an election,” and instead implored the Senate to “do their jobs for as long as the country has hired them.” [The Washington Post, 3/16/16]

USA Today: “Merrick Garland Deserves Better” Than This “Dysfunction And Partisan Rancor.” On March 16, the USA Today editorial board demanded that Senate Republicans “give Judge Garland a hearing,” lamenting that Garland and “the country [deserve] better” than this “political gamesmanship and hypocrisy.” The editorial board warned that “blocking consideration” of Garland “for almost an entire year will only invite similar retribution,” urging the Senate to rise above “the dysfunction and partisan rancor that has degraded Congress.” [USA Today, 3/16/16]

Charlotte Observer: Without Hearing On Garland, GOP Is Taking “Politics Of Obstruction To A Corrosive And Constitutionally Questionable New Low.” A March 16 Charlotte Observer editorial skewered “the hollow, phony quality of GOP leaders' protestations” about holding hearings, writing that Garland “deserves a fair hearing” because otherwise the GOP “is taking the politics of obstruction to a corrosive and constitutionally questionable new low.” [Charlotte Observer, 3/16/16]

News & Observer: GOP Obstruction Would Be An “Outrage” And “An Affront” To The Constitution. A March 16 News & Observer editorial urged Senate Republicans to “serve their country and do their own duty,” because denying Garland a hearing “would be an outrage” and “an affront not just to Obama [...] but to the Constitution.” The board lamented that if this obstruction leaves the court “at a 4-4 philosophical split, it will be rendered ineffective. The high court needs to be at full strength.” [News & Observer, 3/16/16]

Post And Courier: “Hyper-Partisan Disregard” For The Constitution By GOP Is A “Misguided Position.” The editorial board of North Carolina’s Post and Courier on March 16 torched home state Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, in addition to the GOP Senate at large, for “hyper-partisan disregard” of the Constitution, writing that the senators should abandon their “obstructive stance” and “give Garland fair consideration.” [Post and Courier, 3/16/16]

Dallas Morning News: “The American People ... Expect Both The President And The Senate” To Do Their Jobs. In a March 16 editorial, the Dallas Morning News slammed GOP Sens. John Cornyn's and Ted Cruz's, argument that the next president should nominate Scalia's replacement as “weak,” “phony,” and “steeped in partisan gamesmanship.” The editorial also stated that the senators' failure to act would “neglect their duty, insult their president, and weaken this democracy's faith in justice ... [and] ultimately weaken the very rule of law.” [The Dallas Morning News,3/16/16]

Houston Chronicle: Sen. Cornyn Should Keep His Word To Have “An Up-Or-Down Vote On Judicial Nominees.” A March 16 Houston Chronicle editorial highlighted Sen. John Cornyn's (R-TX) stance that judicial nominees should have “an up-or-down vote,” and the editorial board said they would “hold Cornyn to his word” expecting that, “like any honorable Texan,” he would keep it. [Houston Chronicle, 3/16/16]

Sac Bee: “Our System Will Be Diminished” If “Obstructionist Politics” Stiff Garland's Nomination. A March 16 Sacramento Bee editorial condemned McConnell and Senate Republicans for “obstructionist politics,” saying that approach “drives the process further into dysfunction,” and demanding that the Senate give Garland a hearing and a vote. “Rejecting someone with Garland's credentials,” the board wrote, “would be unprecedented,” and it warned that McConnell “would bear [the] responsibility” of “our system [being] diminished.” [The Sacramento Bee, 3/16/16]

Kansas City Star: “Obstructionist Puppets” In The Senate “Are Out Of Sync With The Nation's Best Interests.” A March 16 Kansas City Star editorial chastised Senate Republicans for their gambit, warning that they “will expose themselves as naked obstructionists if they refuse to ... hold hearings” for Garland. The Star’s board warned Roberts and Sens.Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) against being “consumed with self interest and disdain for the democratic process,” lest they come off as “obstructionist puppets” who “will have trouble justifying their obstruction to a public that wants to see fair play in Washington.” [The Kansas City Star, 3/16/16]

Chicago Sun-Times: “Do Your Job, Senators. ... Hold Hearings” And “Vote To Confirm Or Reject.” In a March 16 editorial by editorial page editor Tom McNamee, the Chicago Sun-Times slammed Senate Republicans for failing to “show a little more respect for the American Constitution,” writing, “do your job” and “hold hearings to consider Garland's suitability and vote to confirm or reject.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 3/16/16]

LA Times: Republican Refusal To Hear Obama Supreme Court Nominee “Outrageous.” In a March 16 editorial, the Los Angeles Times slammed Senate Republicans' refusal to hear Obama's nominee as “outrageous.” The editorial called McConnell's claim that the people need a voice “preposterous” and wrote that the damage done to the Republican Party “won't be confined to this nomination.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/16/16]

Mercury News: GOP Withholding Consideration Of Garland “Would Be Irresponsible.” A March 16 editorial in the San Jose Mercury News called Garland “a superb nomination” and explained, “It would be irresponsible for Republicans in the U.S. Senate to withhold consideration of Garland's nomination for strictly political reasons.” The editorial continued, “President Obama's sensible choice of the moderate Garland makes clear that if Republicans refuse to hold hearings on his nomination, it is simply because GOP senators don't want Obama to fulfill his constitutional duty to appoint Scalia's successor.” [The Mercury News, 3/16/16]

Baltimore Sun: Not Giving Garland “The Courtesy Of A Hearing ... Speaks Volumes” About The GOP. A March 16 editorial in The Baltimore Sun urged the GOP to hold hearings, writing, “Should Republicans fulfill their threat to not even hold hearings on the nominee, they demonstrate the party's true Achilles heel, an inability to compromise or put the nation's interests ahead of their own.” The editorial continued that if no hearing were held, it would “remind voters that the GOP is not just the 'Party of No,' it is the party of 'Nobody Works.’” [The Baltimore Sun, 3/16/16]

Tampa Bay Times: President Obama Fulfilled His Obligation, Now Senate Should “Do Its Job.” In a March 16 editorial, the Tampa Bay Times lauded Obama's Supreme Court nominee as a “widely respected chief judge” and a “well-qualified centrist.” The editorial went on to criticize McConnell and other Republicans for accusing Obama of “politicizing” the nomination and called on the Senate to “do its job.” [Tampa Bay Times,3/16/16]

Miami Herald: Republicans' Refusal To Confirm Garland Is “Totally Without Merit.” In a March 16 editorial, the Miami Herald editorial board slammed congressional Republicans for the “preposterous” opinion that Supreme Court nominations are “too important to consider” during an election year. [Miami Herald, 3/16/16]

Tampa Tribune: “Whiny Obstructionists” In The Senate Are “Taking A Big Gamble” With “Obstinacy.” In a March 17 editorial, the Tampa Tribune editorial board challenged GOP senators to “have the courage of their convictions and vote this obviously qualified candidate down” instead of blocking hearings and votes, writing that Republicans “are going to come off looking like whiny obstructionists to Americans not blinded by partisanship.” [The Tampa Tribune, 3/17/16]

Sun-Sentinel: GOP Senators Are “Neglecting A Constitutional Duty” And Being “Downright Rude.” The Sun-Sentinel editorial board called the Republican refusal to hear Merrick Garland's nomination “downright rude to a highly qualified jurist.” The board went on to write that both Garland and the American people “deserve” a hearing.” [Sun-Sentinel, 3/16/16]

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Calls On Sen. Johnson, Republicans To “Give The Nominee A Hearing.” A March 16 editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called on Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Senate Republicans to do their job and “give the nominee a hearing,” writing that “Garland is no wild-eyed loose cannon who can't be trusted.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/16/16]

Richmond Times-Dispatch: GOP Obstruction “Has No Principled Rationale Whatsoever.” A March 16 Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial slammed Senate Republicans' “knee-jerk, dog-in-the-manger opposition that has left much of the American public justifiably disgusted,” writing that Garland should receive hearings and votes because not doing so has “no principled rationale whatsoever.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/16/16]

Boston Globe: Refusal To Hear Nominee Is An “Unprecedented, Outrageous Strategy.” In a March 17 editorial, the Boston Globe editorial board slammed the refusal to hold hearings on Garland's nomination as an “unprecedented, outrageous obstruction strategy.” The board went on to laud Garland as an “eminently qualified” judge. [the Boston Globe, 3/17/16]

La Opinión: It Is “Outrageous” That “Lawmakers With An Extremely Low Approval Rate” Are Preventing Other Branches Of Government From Operating. La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the United States, published a March 16 editorial -- in both English and Spanish -- that criticized Republican lawmakers for “deciding not to let the court function properly” by refusing to fulfill their duty “for political reasons.” La Opinión also called on the Senate to “stop searching for excuses” and to consider Obama's pick for the Supreme Court. [La Opinión, 3/16/16]