THE GROFF/ELLISON POLITICAL REPORT

Hearing Melee

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on January 13, 2009

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Much of the speculation surrounding confirmation hearings is always a bit of gossip-page melee that political hacks can’t seem to shake. It’s a vicious tradition that is so ingrained in the American political psyche, ripping apart the Presidential nominee – part of it is purely psyho-social. But, it is also part political intimidation, a sort of rite of passage where the legislative branch has to test the fortitude of the executive branch. Senators – on both sides of the aisle – want to take a bite out of Obama’s “honeymoon” period, hence the grilling will be intense at times. The hearings will also be used as sharp negotiating tools as Congress mulls an $850 billion plus stimulus package.

Despite the celebrity spotlight on the Hillary Clinton hearings, the hearing to watch is Eric Holder’s for a number of reasons. Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) is looking to reassert himself, both on the Hill and back in his home state where he will face stiff opposition from Democrats looking to maximize gains made in the Keystone State in 2008. In the addition, any major judicial appointment or nomination, whether Supreme Court or AG, is an ideological lightning rod for conservatives. Holder’s tainted tenure in the Clinton Administration is an opening for Republicans.

And, look to Tim Geithner’s hearing as another intense battle as Senators will use it as an opportunity to promote their individual economic agendas as the country is faced with fiscal crisis. But, the real issue should also be the extent of Geitner’s relationships with Wall Street bankers and brokers, and what was happening on his watch as President of the New York Federal Reserve as the sub-prime mortgage bomb exploded.

Leon Panetta’s hearing should be fairly uneventful, since the focus is on the economy more so than national security on the moment. However, Sen. Feinstein is looking for a stage in the absence of Hillary Clinton – still, Panetta is being picked because there is a sense that the CIA needs a management overhaul. Hillary Clinton’s confirmation will sail through Committee, although tough questions will arise concerning her primary differences with then Candidate Obama and the extent of her husband’s global fundraising efforts. When looking at $10-$25 million donations from Saudi Arabia to Clinton’s foundation, Senators will sniff about for a quid pro quo, especially since we’re faced with renewed conflict in the Middle East.

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