UPDATE: 4 Mar 09 There are now reports that Senator Menendez is not the only Senator holding up these nominations. I've got a new post up with the updated information and new suggestions for ways you can help.
The Washington Post is reporting that Senate votes to confirm Jane Lubchenco as NOAA Administrator and John Holdren as Science Advisor are currently being obstructed by a Democratic Senator. Quoting multiple unnamed sources, the Post says that New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez has placed an "anonymous hold" on the nominations in order to try to gain leverage for some issues related to Cuba that he's interested in.
Menendez's office, the Post reports, refused to confirm or deny the reports, saying only that it's their "policy" not to "speculate or comment" on matters related to anonymous holds. They also report, however, that a spokesman for Harry Reid said "We will work to try to address any concerns that he [Menendez] may have."
This is completely unacceptable. David Vitter might have been a jerk during last month's confirmation hearing, but even he declined to try to delay confirmation for these nominees. Both of these positions are important parts of the Obama Administration's environmental policy team. They are not unimportant positions, and both the nominees and the positions themselves deserve far more respect than Menendez is displaying. These people have agreed to serve their country. They should not be treated as pawns in whatever unrelated game the Senator is trying to play.
Please take a couple of minutes and contact Menendez's office. Tell him that science policy is too important to use as a pawn in whatever game he's playing. If you can, you should also contact the Majority Leader's office. Remind Senator Reid that science and the environment are important issues, and that you know he can, if he so chooses, push the nominations through over the hold. Contact your own senators, too, and ask them to bring whatever pressure they can on Menendez and Reid.
In his Inaugural Address, President Obama talked about restoring science to its rightful place. We can debate just what that should mean, but I'm sure we can all agree that the rightful place of science in public policy is not as a disposable pawn in an unrelated political game.
Contact information for the various Senators can be found below the jump.