From Washington Wire blog at THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:
Sen. Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Republican who held Senate hostage over an unemployment bill earlier this month, is now causing trouble for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Bunning is blocking the confirmation of two trade nominees because, according to an aide, the USTR hasn’t done enough to defend Bunning’s home state against a Canadian antismoking law that “unfairly discriminates against Kentucky-grown tobacco.”
Bunning said Tuesday he’s seen no progress in his talks with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk about Canada’s policy.
The two nominees are Michael Punke, picked to be U.S. ambassador and permanent representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, and Islam Siddiqui, nominated to be USTR’s chief agricultural negotiator.
From THE HUFFINGTON POST:
Jim Bunning, far from being cowed by the national exposure of his recent effort to hold up unemployment benefits for millions of laid-off workers, is back at it in the Senate.
The Kentucky Republican battled Democrats on the Senate floor Tuesday to block two nominations to relatively backbench positions — because he is opposed to a tobacco-related law passed by the Canadian Parliament (that’s right, the Canadian Parliament).
“This is a perversion of the filibuster and a perversion of the role of the Senate. It used to be that the filibuster was reserved for matters of great principle,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) from the well of the Senate. “Some of my colleagues seem more interested in using every procedural method possible to keep the Senate from doing anything than they are in creating jobs or helping Americans struggling in a difficult economy.”
[The blocking of Islam Siddiqui’s nomination to be Chief Agriculture Negotiator leaves the U. S.] at a trade disadvantage with other countries. A coalition of 42 food and agriculture groups wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in January to urge his confirmation.
The Senate is backed up with 88 unconfirmed nominees, 83 more than the Bush administration faced at this point in its tenure.
“I think you get the picture that this is a list of systematic efforts to undermine the ability of the executive branch to do its job,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), urging the nominees to be moved through if there are no real objections.
The continuing obstruction is building a Democratic case for reform of Senate rules. Even conservative Democrat Mark Warner (D-Va.) said on Tuesday that enough was getting close to becoming enough. “Some of the very safeguards that were created to make this a serious and responsible deliberative body have been abused in a way that damages this institution. In some instances, this abuse also runs contrary to our national interest,” he said.
(Video of Al Franken chastising Beanball Bunning is at THE HUFFINGTON POST link above)
This is what’s gotten Beanball Bunning’s granny panties in a wad (from October 8, 2009):
(Reuters) – Canada has banned the manufacture, importation and sale of most flavored cigarettes and small cigars, which have been slammed as little more than an enticement to get children to start smoking.
Anti-smoking groups said fruit-flavored cigarettes were marketed like candy to lure young smokers, but the industry complained the law was too broad and would unfairly restrict importation of U.S.-grown burley tobacco.
Lawmakers in U.S. tobacco-growing states have complained the law will cost U.S. jobs, and a U.S. Senator [guess who!] has been blocking the appointment of a White House trade official in a bid to make the Obama administration put pressure on Canada.
Anti-smoking groups say the jobs complaint is unfounded since Canada did not import any U.S.-grown burley tobacco in 2007 and 2008, and “American-style” cigarettes make up less than 1 percent of the Canadian market.
“The trade argument was invented out of thin air,” said Rob Cunningham of the Canadian Cancer Society.