Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is threatening to use his senatorial powers to hold up the nomination of Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve. Paul has informed Senate leadership of his decision until he can extract a vote on his Fed transparency bill, which mandates a complete audit of the Federal Reserve, the nation's central banking system in charge of monetary policy.
To put the use of filibusters into perspective, consider that when Lyndon B. Johnson was Senate majority leader, he only faced one filibuster. Majority Leader Harry Reid has faced over 400.
And many of those filibusters are unnecessary. In fact, the GOP recently blocked a confirmation to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where leaders admitted they were not worried about the candidate's qualifications, but wanted to see the agency changed from its current construction.
Those at WonkBlog remind us that in this era when Republicans are considered the most obstructionist, Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) faced over 100 filibusters during his time as majority leader from 2003-2007.
Paul's latest move is an example of how some politicians threaten to hurt government institutions if they don't get their way. We saw this with the recent government shutdown. We saw this with the sequester. And, we are seeing this again with Yellen's confirmation.
There are those who will chastise me, asking how could I not support Paul's attempt to bring transparency, accountability and more regulation to the Fed? To them I say this: It's possible to better an institution without threatening it. Elected officials can't keep holding up the economy or government because some of them don't like it. If you have a problem with an institution, then work with colleagues across party lines to improve it. Start by creating alliances, not enemies. Don't threaten to lock up the house if you're trying to get the owners inside to tend to the lawn better.
My advice to him is this: if you are running for president in 2016, there are some sound legislative accomplishments you can make to improve your national prospects. Bringing more transparency to the Fed is one of them, but threatening a-la-Ted-Cruz is not sound policy. If one day you are called upon to be president, you're going to need all the friends you can get to govern well.