Anyone at least partially au fait with the online gaming industry will known how much misery the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act has caused. Many poker rooms withdrew from the U.S., cutting a massive swathe into company profits and player pleasure. Now the UIGEA is even making trouble for the entire country, thanks to steadfast anti-gambling Senator Jon Kyl.
In Washington, the likes of Barney Frank and the Poker Players Alliance continue to fight for the abandonment of the UIGEA, in order that it can be replaced by sensible regulation and licensing. They were recently granted a 6 month delay on the implementation of the UIGEA, a decision which appeared to be agreed upon by most of the senate. It is generally agreed that, regardless of the correctness of banning online gambling, the bill is poorly worded and consequently very difficult to enact.
Republican Jon Kyl does not agree and has thrown his toys out of the pram in protest. He was one of the authors of the UIGEA and a relentless critic of online gambling. “Click the mouse and lose your house,” he has famously said, even going so far as to claim that online gamblers will to, “bankruptcy, crime, and suicide.” He is currently blocking the nomination of six Treasury officials, who the Obama administration want to appoint in order to help repair America’s damaged economy.
These kinds of holds have become an all too common tactic in the last 12 months, with numerous Senators refusing to endorse the institution of government officials on the pretense of some personal issue they want addressed. In most cases, as with Senator Kyl, the people being instated are largely irrelevant to the root cause of the hold. As Newsweek reporter Matthew Yglesias puts it, “Putting the squeeze on an administration by holding up its appointees is a way of holding the interests of the whole country hostage to a petty agenda.”
There is, in fact, no official rules that allow members of Congress to erect these blockades. Their existence is a hangover from history, when they were not used as a hostage tactic by perturbed statesmen. The majority leader could ignore Kyl’s demands, but this would probably lead to even more tangled protests and further hold ups in the governing process. The Arizonian Senator appears to have made no specific demands, and it is not clear how or when he could be convinced to stand down.
The six officials now awaiting permission to start their jobs are all due to enter the Treasury. All of their positions are currently vacant and are intended to perform vital roles in shaping and protecting the U.S. economy. Under Secretaries for International Affairs and Domestic Finance are accompanied by Assistant Secretaries for International Markets, International Economics, and Tax Policy. Most of these posts have been filled at previous times in other governments and at least one of the nominees has served under both Republican and Democrat administrations.
Political commentators have derided Kyl for his tactics, claiming that he is blocking appointments important for the whole country in favor of his pet issue that affects only one industry. Pat Garofalo of the Wonk Room blog said that, “a six month delay in implementing [the UIGEA] doesn’t seem like the end of the world — and it appears that most of the Senate agrees. But Kyl’s action really does highlight how far conservatives have gone to prevent Obama’s appointed officials from doing their jobs.” Fox Business columnist John Stossel accused Kyl of fostering a “Nanny-State” and becoming, “hysterical about gambling.” The Chair of Political Economy at the University of California, Brad DeLong, called Kyl’s actions, “disgraceful and insane.”