Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Shifting the Balance From the Senate.

Ruth Marcus writes today that President Obama 's decision to install Donald Berwick by recess appointment was "outrageous." By her lights, a recess appointment is "the last step in cases of egregious delay," and Obama should have gone through the normal confirmation process before taking this option. Marcus, like others, doesn't seem to understand that the Senate has seen a tremendous change in norms, beginning with the 104th Congress and continuing into the present. Whereas previous Senates were mostly deferential to the president's nominees, these Senates -- and particularly the current one -- have taken to routinely opposing nominees, regardless of the position's importance or the candidate's actual acceptability. This is key; when there is a clear policy reason for a filibuster -- for instance, the nominee's ideology is objectionable to the critical vote in a filibuster -- the president can still meet his goals by offering a similar but less objectionable nominee. But when...

Broken Confirmations, Cont.

I think it's worth responding to Keith Hennessey 's objection to President Obama 's recess appointment of Donald Berwick : In the past recess appointments have been used after an actual filibuster. In this case the President is using a recess appointment to avoid the threat of a potential filibuster. Doing so also allows the nominee to avoid answering an uncomfortable question about his foundation’s funding sources. It also allows the Administration to duck a reprise of the health care reform debate four months before Election Day. The Berwick recess appointment is extraordinary because the confirmation process didn’t even begin and because Republicans cannot be held responsible for the delay. In the eleven weeks since the nomination Chairman Baucus never held a hearing on Dr. Berwick. While some Senate Republicans threatened a future filibuster, no Senate Republican has yet had an opportunity to delay or block the confirmation process so far. While it's true that Senate Republicans...

The Fair Elections Reform Act Is a Good Start.

The Washington Post's Dave Eggen reports on a renewed push by campaign-finance reformers to pass the Fair Elections Reform Act, which would expand public financing for congressional campaigns: The Fair Elections Now Act, sponsored in the House by Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) and Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) and in the Senate by Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), would establish a voluntary system in which candidates would agree to accept only donations of $100 or less from contributors in their districts or states. After meeting a minimum amount of qualified contributions, they would get $400 in matching funds for every $100 raised. If there's anything I like about the Fair Elections Now Act, it's that the bill's authors wisely opted not to put limits on total spending; low spending limits encourage candidates to opt out or work around the system, negating its value. That said, the FENA caps matching public funds at $2.8 million, which could place candidates who opt in at a disadvantage if...

Windows of Opportunity.

Howard Fineman wants to know why President Obama is in such a hurry: So far in his presidency Obama has been tackling, even seeking out, sweeping, controversial challenges: the stimulus, the auto bailout, health-care reform, a new arms-control treaty with Russia. He still wants to deal with comprehensive energy and immigration legislation this year. So, is he in hurry because he figures there may be no second term? Well, my answer is this: Obama is playing a deep, longer-range game, one that involves burnishing his identity as a "historical," history-making figure. The president is swinging for the fences because that is what home-run hitters do. He hopes (expects) voters will reward him for the effort. Hence, his focus on the toughest topics in the broadest way. To switch sports analogies, if he were an Olympic diver, he’d always be attempting the dives with the highest degree of difficulty. If the execution isn’t perfect, he gets a higher score anyway. Last week, Brendan Nyhan and...

Reforming a Broken Confirmation System.

Not to spend too much time on confirmations, but it really is stunning to think about how many people the Senate is responsible for confirming. The Washington Post 's Al Kamen points out that there are still 43 Senate-confirmable jobs open in Cabinet-level agencies (out of a total of 369), and at Foreign Policy , Josh Rogin notes that there are more than 180 nominees awaiting action from the Senate. It's easy to shrug and accept the broken confirmation system as inevitable, but the fact is that it hasn't always been this difficult to confirm nominees. Indeed, there was a time when confirmations were fairly quick. In a 2004 paper, Marymount University political scientist Margaret Tseng found that the average time between nomination and confirmation has grown steadily since the 1960s. When President Kennedy presented a nominee, he could expect confirmation within a few months at most. By contrast, President Clinton waited upward of nine months before many of his nominees entered service...

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