When Democratic senator Ben Nelson made a deal for the federal government to forever pay for Nebraska's expanded Medicaid program in exchange for his vote on health-care reform, Republicans gleefully referred to the agreement as the "Cornhusker Kickback." When Democratic senator Mary Landrieu secured $300 million in Medicaid payments for Louisiana in exchange for her support for the bill, it was deemed the "Louisiana Purchase." Now Republican senator Richard Shelby of Alabama has single-handedly held up the confirmations of 70 federal nominees with something called a "blanket hold." It's a move we humbly propose become forever known as ... the Cotton State Cockblock.
Shelby's move truly escalates the GOP's strategy of obstruction to a new, petulant level. According to reports, while traditional holds are common (here's a good explanation of how it works), this gargantuan "blanket hold" on every single nominee Obama has sent to the Senate for confirmation is rare indeed, or even unprecedented. One congressional expert contacted by the Mobile Press-Register said "he knew of no previous use of a blanket hold." So why exactly has Shelby taken such drastic action? Because he wants some pork for Alabama. Specifically, one earmark for a $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers, and another for a $45 million FBI testing lab. It's a $40,045,000,000 ransom demand to the United States government. When did Dr. Evil become a senator?