Unanimous Consent

In Sunday’s New York Times economics Nobel laureate Paul Krugman argued that although “America Is Not Yet Lost… the Senate is working on it.”

His commentary focused on the Senate’s tradition of relying on “unanimous consent.” In one telling vignette Krugman writes:

Last week, after nine months, the Senate finally approved Martha Johnson to head the General Services Administration, which runs government buildings and purchases supplies. It’s an essentially nonpolitical position, and nobody questioned Ms. Johnson’s qualifications: she was approved by a vote of 94 to 2. But Senator Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, had put a “hold” on her appointment to pressure the government into approving a building project in Kansas City.

In other words, the Senate is now “paralyzed by procedure.” As a result, “Rules that used to be workable have become crippling now that one of the nation’s major political parties has descended into nihilism, seeing no harm — in fact, political dividends — in making the nation ungovernable.”

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