Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is no friend of the poker industry. He partnered with Senators Jim Leach and Bill Frist in 2006 to attach the Unlawful Internet Gambling Reinforcement Act (UIGEA) to the Safe Port Act in the last hours of a Senate session with full knowledge that Congress would not vote against port safety to take a stand on internet gambling rights. Thus, the UIGEA was passed, forwarded to Bush who gladly signed it, and nearly implemented in late 2009. But because the U.S. Treasury, along with the Federal Reserve System, granted a request to postpone UIGEA regulations for another six months, Kyl was none too happy and has decided to delay confirmation of six Treasury nominees in protest of the department’s UIGEA decision.
Kyl is known for his conservative views and is often ranked one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. His opposition to legalized gambling in any form is well known but took form when he arranged the passage of the UIGEA as an add-on to must-pass legislation without so much as a Congressional committee hearing on the subject of online gaming, though he took special care to exempt fantasy sports from the carefully worded bill. (It should be noted that Kyl received campaign contributions of more than $40,000 from Major League Baseball in 2006.) He then sent a letter to then-President George W. Bush to thank him for signing the bill into law, noting that family values were at stake. Kyl has consistently opposed efforts by Rep. Barney Frank and others who seek to repeal the UIGEA with pro-gaming legislation, though he doesn’t have as much support in Congress as he would presumably like.
When the UIGEA regulations were delayed for six months just before the December 1st, 2009 compliance deadline at the hands of Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Kyl struck back. Aware that six Treasury department nominees for key positions, such as Under Secretaries for International Affairs and Domestic Finance, required Congressional approval, Kyl decided to block those nominees from proceeding to a vote. According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund and confirmed by one of Kyl’s aides, his decision to block the nominees is in protest to the UIGEA postponement. Thus, key figures in charge of assisting with U.S. tax policy and international finance decisions cannot be voted into those positions because of Kyl’s vendetta.
There has been no official response from Geithner on the subject, and Frank has yet to respond from his position as Chairman of the Financial Services Committee.