Shelby releases some holds, still blocking military nominees

Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama released holds on most of the Obama administration nominees he has been blocking, the Washington Post reports, citing a statement from Shelby's office:

"The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House's attention on two issues that are critical to our national security - the Air Force's aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI's Terrorist Device Analytical Center (TEDAC). With that accomplished, Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition until the new Request for Proposal is issued. The Air Force tanker acquisition is not an 'earmark' as has been reported; it is a competition to replace the Air Force's aging aerial refueling tanker fleet. Sen. Shelby is not seeking to determine the outcome of the competition; he is seeking to ensure an open, fair and transparent competition that delivers the best equipment to our men and women in uniform."

I wonder whether any of Shelby's GOP colleagues leaned on him to take this step. They may have been worried about mainstream media coverage of Shelby's grotesque hostage-taking exercise, or they may not want to push things too far in case Senate Democrats change the rules on putting "holds" on nominees.

Shelby's power play is not over yet, because he is still vowing to block nominees "directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition." Emptywheel found out which nominees are covered by Shelby's hold:

    * Terry Yonkers, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Logistics (Nominated August 4, 2009)

    * Frank Kendall, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (PDUSD) for Acquisition and Technology (Nominated August 6, 2009)

    * Erin Conaton, Under Secretary of the Air Force (Nominated November 10, 2009)

Democrats should blast Republicans for indulging Shelby while key Air Force positions remain vacant during wartime. I would encourage Roxanne Conlin's campaign not to drop its "fight the hold" effort until Republicans allow the Senate to vote on all of these nominees.

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