Drawing a sharp distinction between the role they played as the opposition following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that of the Republicans today, Democrats are punching back against what they see as political gamesmanship on the part of the GOP.
In an angry floor speech Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sharply criticized Republican efforts to delay confirmation of key national security nominees for the Obama administration.
Over in the House, a member of the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee that oversees Justice Department spending denounced the “hypocrisy” in Republican attacks against President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder regarding their handling of the failed Christmas Day airline bombing attempt.
“When a young Nigerian terrorist boarded an airplane bound for America on Christmas Day, there was no permanent boss at the [Transportation Security Administration] -– the agency created after 9/11 specifically to keep air travel safe,” Reid says. “When he tried to blow up that plane, the top positions at both of the intelligence agencies within the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security were similarly empty.
“Why? Because Republican Senators refuse to let this body hold a vote on the highly capable people the President has asked to serve in those roles,” Reid adds. “We all know Republicans have dedicated themselves to grinding government to a halt. They do so openly and proudly, and boast about their aversion to compromise. It’s why they have time and again exploited the rules of the Senate and abused this body’s procedural traditions. It’s why they have wasted countless hours and shattered remarkable records for stubbornness. It’s why, when we have faced questions of national security, they have answered with politics.”
Reid specifically roasts his Republican colleagues for preventing the confirmation of four nominees: the president’s choices for the positions of under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness; the assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, the head of the State Department’s intelligence department; the under secretary of homeland security for intelligence and analysis, the head of DHS’s intelligence arm; and the U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament, whose job it is to work with other nations on the issues of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
“It would be one thing if Republicans -– bound together in unified opposition to everything, as they have made their custom –- voted against these vital nominees. It would be one thing if they reviewed the résumés, brought the nominees before the appropriate committees, and decided they were not fit to serve. But that’s not what is happening,” Reid complains.
“Instead, simply to waste time, Republicans are refusing to let the Senate vote at all,” he says. ” When these nominees do finally come before this body, you shouldn’t be surprised if they pass unanimously, with overwhelming Republican support, or nearly so. You shouldn’t be surprised, but you should be sickened.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) released a statement in which he contrasts the cooperation Democrats offered President George W. Bush in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, to the partisanship the GOP is deploying against Obama after the attempt to bring down an airliner last month.
“Two terror attacks in American skies in the first year of a young Presidency: One succeeded in killing thousands of innocent Americans. In the other, no Americans were hurt. Two responses by political leaders of the party out of power – one responsible and rallying behind the President, then eight years later cynical and tearing down the President,” Fattah says.
Eight years ago in the dark days following 9/11, Democrats “put aside legitimate questions” about the Bush administration’s failure to heed warning signs and, “for the good of our nation,” called for unity.
“There were no demands for the resignation of responsible Bush appointees. No heads rolled,” says Fattah, who also is a former member of the appropriations subcommittee on homeland security. “Compare that to the Republicans’ shameless soft-on-unity act in recent days, attacking President Obama and calling for the resignation of. Attorney General Eric Holder. The Attorney General’s ‘sin’ seems to be that he demands justice and pursues prosecution under our laws for the alleged perpetrator of the failed Christmas Day underwear bomb attack and certain Guantanamo prisoners.
“These same Republican voices stayed silent when the previous administration pursued similar criminal trials against both the so-called ‘20th hijacker’ of 9/11 and the shoe bomber,” Fattah says. “And no Republicans objected when the Bush-Cheney Administration jailed an operative on the CIA payroll in Iraq for going outside their already-loose guidelines for permissible interrogation tactics. But now Republicans see Attorney General Holder’s plan to review similar outside-the-lines CIA interrogations as a firing offense.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and government for more than a decade.