Thursday, September 20, 2007

Grand Obstructionist Party Blocks Pro-Troop Amendment

This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report
Looking over today's posts thus far, a trend emerges -- Republican blocked a habeas corpus bill from coming to a vote. They also blocked a bill to give DC residents a voice in Congress from coming to a vote. Jim Webb's amendment to give troops equal time off for the time they spend in combat will be blocked from coming to a vote. The Senate Democratic leadership is working on a funding bill for Iraq that includes a withdrawal timeline, which Republicans will block from coming to a vote.
And that's just from news items today. Kevin Drum highlights the problem we've been watching all year.
Republicans aren't just obstructing legislation at normal rates. They're obstructing legislation at three times the usual rate. They're absolutely desperate to keep this stuff off the president's desk, where the only choice is to either sign it or else take the blame for a high-profile veto.
As things stand, though, Republicans will largely avoid blame for their tactics. After all, the first story linked above says only that the DC bill "came up short in the Senate" and the second one that the habeas bill "fell short in the Senate." You have to read with a gimlet eye to figure out how the vote actually broke down, and casual readers will come away thinking that the bills failed because of some kind of generic Washington gridlock, not GOP obstructionism. [...]
Would it really be so hard for reporters to make it clear exactly who's responsible for blocking these bills?
This isn't a new problem, but it is an unprecedented (and undemocratic) one. Indeed, senators have been taking advantage of filibusters for generations, but we've never had a Senate minority that is as reckless and obstructionist as Senate Republicans in 2007.
For years, Republicans, with a 55-seat majority, cried like young children if Dems even considered a procedural hurdle. They said voters would punish obstructionists. They said it was borderline unconstitutional. They said to stand in the way of majority rule was to undermine a basic principle of our democratic system.
And wouldn't you know it, the shameless hypocrites didn't mean a word of it.
The Republican minority has created a de facto 60-vote minimum to do anything of substance in the Senate. They'll allow routine up-or-down votes on renaming post offices, or those rare bills that enjoy near-unanimous support, but otherwise, it's filibuster time on the Senate floor. And while the number of filibusters has been going up pretty consistently for 20 years, these Republicans appear to be in a league of their own.
Their excuses are pretty pathetic.
"You can't say that all we're going to do around here in the United States Senate is have us govern by 51 votes -- otherwise we might as well be unicameral, because then we would have the Senate and the House exactly the same," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
To which Reid responds: "The problem we have is that we don't have many moderate Republicans. I don't know what we can do to create less cloture votes other than not file them, just walk away and say, 'We're not going to do anything.' That's the only alternative we have."
McCain's rationale is pretty absurd. He's effectively arguing: Water down bills or we'll bring the chamber to a halt. This from a man who used to say "elections have consequences."
If Republicans don't like a bill, they can vote against it. If it passes anyway, they can urge the president to veto it. But holding the chamber hostage just further demonstrates why the modern GOP is unwilling to govern responsibly.
Besides, this isn't about the GOP waiting for bipartisan bills; it's about obstructionism. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said a Republican colleague of his told him that a strategy has been adopted by the minority to "prevent any accomplishment" by the new Congress:
"I had a Republican colleague tell me it is the Republican strategy to try to prevent any accomplishment of the Democratic Congress. That is set in their caucus openly and directly that they don't intend to allow Democrats to have any legislative successes, and they intend to do it by repeated filibuster."
The only resolution is public outrage, which might encourage the GOP to allow the Senate to start voting on bills again, and which might happen if reporters would do their jobs.
In April, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said, "The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail ... and so far it's working for us."
And it's failing for the rest of the country.

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