Friday, October 02, 2009

John Kerry's failed power play

The Hill reports on a little dust up between Jim DeMint and John Kerry. DeMint wants to travel to Honduras to check out for himself the situation there since the ouster of Zelaya for trying to bypass the country's constitution in order to stay in power. Rather than siding with the constitutional position on Honduras, Obama's State Department has allied with Hugo Chavez's position. DeMint wants to meet with leaders there in advance of their scheduled November election. Such senatorial trips are done all the time. But John Kerry decided to use his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to veto DeMint's trip. Here's is DeMint's side of the story.
“No U.S. Senator has yet been to Honduras to assess facts of crisis. [Kerry] & Obama admin using bullying tactics to hide truth,” DeMint, who also sits on the Foreign Relations panel, said on Twitter after he heard the trip would not occur.

"@JohnKerry (Foreign Rel. chair) trying to hide truth to protect Zelaya, blocking our fact-finding trip to Honduras at last minute," DeMint also tweeted late Thursday afternoon.

DeMint's office followed with a statement. "These bullying tactics by the Obama administration and Senator Kerry must stop, and we must be allowed to get to the truth in Honduras. Not a single U.S. Senator has traveled to Honduras to learn the facts on the ground.

"While this administration has failed to act decisively in Afghanistan, it is has no problem cracking down on a democratic ally and one of the poorest nations in Latin America," DeMint added. "Now, President Obama and Democrats' blind support for this would-be dictator and friend of Hugo Chavez will prevent members of Congress from learning the truth first hand."
Senator Kerry's office argues that the real reason they blocked DeMint's trip was because DeMint had put holds on two of Obama's nominees for the State Department.
Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones responded Thursday evening that "Senator DeMint’s statement wins an A for ‘audacity.’"

"The Foreign Relations Committee always prefers to operate in a bi-partisan and collegial fashion, and it did so when it approved these two nominees by votes of 14 to 4 for Mr. Shannon and 15 to 4 for Mr. Valenzuela," Jones told The Hill in a statement. "But now Sen. DeMint refuses to let the nominations of two distinguished public servants even be considered on the floor of the Senate."

"When Senator DeMint lifts these holds and allows these individuals to receive an up or down vote on the Senate floor, the Committee will approve his travel to Honduras, a country that is in the middle of delicate, political crisis.”
Senators put holds on nominees and bills all the time. It's not an attractive aspect of the Senate that an individual senator can block action by using such holds, but it's what they do up there in the Senate. In fact, Senator Kerry wasn't above using a hold or a threat of a hold when he didn't like something that the Bush administration was doing as he did back in 2006. When he was senator, Obama did it too. What is different is trying to use his position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to exact revenge on a senator who is putting a hold that the chairman doesn't like.

Fortunately, Kerry's power play didn't work. DeMint is getting his trip to Honduras because Mitch McConnell stepped in. John Kerry would benefit himself from some on-the-ground research on what has been going on in Honduras. But he'd rather stake out a position without researching for himself what happened with the ouster of Zelaya. Do other senators really agree that a chairman can try to block other senators' overseas trips if they're angry about that senator using one of their prized senatorial privileges? The Democrats should remember that what goes around comes around. One day they will be in the minority. Do they want to endorse John Kerry's precedent of how to use his power as chairman?