Weigel

The Banal Secret Behind Confirmation Slow-Downs

David Dayen says he’s found the real reason Republican senators want to pitch a fight over John Bryson’s Commerce Secretary nomination, citing John Barrasso’s three-month old promise to stall nominees to get trade deals:

John Bryson is not the issue here. The stalled free trade deals are the issue. They remain an issue because the White House is insisting that the deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea include lapsed trade adjustment assistance for displaced workers, conditions Republicans thoroughly reject . John Bryson has been taken hostage as a byproduct to this dispute, and it happened months before he was nominated. His history with the NRDC or whatever else oppo researchers can dig up is irrelevant.Or rather, it’s relevant to the GOP, so they can distract from the issue at hand. They would rather just cast Bryson as a radical than have to defend blocking a qualified nominee over unrelated trade deals. 

It’s not just a distraction; it’s one part of a machine that’s working rather well. There are Republicans who are looking for excuses to stall nominees, and there are Republicans like James Inhofe who fervently believe that environmentalism is a fatal condition for anyone seeking a government job. This sets up an inside-outside game. Voters are more bearish on trade deals than the business class that want them. Even some Republican voters aren’t sure if they want new trade deals. But no Republican voter wants a “radical” who believes in “world government” to get a promotion. You’ve got an elite argument and a populist argument, pushed from different sides, working in tandem.