Republicans' Governing Glossary

Agencycide noun – The effective killing of a statutorially established agency of government by legislative refusal to confirm the nominees required to lead that agency. The term dates from December 2011, when Senate Republicans killed (by exploiting Senate rules requiring a supermajority to bring up votes) President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray for the position of director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which had been created by the Dodd-Frank Act passed by the previous Congress. Republicans stated that they had no objections to Cordray himself but didn’t wish to appoint a director so long as the agency possessed the autonomous power with which it was vested by Dodd-Frank, preferring that it be reconstituted as subordinate to other regulatory bodies charged with helping and sustaining banks.

While this one episode of nominee-blocking was not sufficient to give rise to the neologism agencycide, it was to be followed in short order by the expiration of the term of National Labor Relations Board member Craig Becker at the conclusion of December 2011, reducing the number of NLRB members to two. By law, the NLRB is supposed to have five members, and a Supreme Court decision from 2010 stipulated that a two-member board lacked a quorum and, thus, the power to render any rulings. Senate Republicans vowed not to confirm any further Obama appointments to the board, rendering it incapable of overseeing U.S. labor relations at least during 2012.

It was noted that the two regulatory bodies the GOP thus crippled were the ones with the power and the charge to represent the interests of consumers and workers in their interactions with businesses. Whether agencycide refers only to the effective killing of agencies that represent the largest populations that can come into conflict with business, or can be applied more expansively to other agencies as well may depend on the future conduct of congressional Republicans.

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