America Held Hostage: Day 701
Whether or not you watch Rachel Maddow‘s Show on MSNBC, her explanation of how the Republicans broke the Senate with excessive abuse of the filibuster is highly recommended. The term filibuster is of European origin and in politics it means literally to pirate or hijack debate, although the tactic dates back to another parliamentary body; the Roman Senate. Unfortunately, a procedure that was intended to prevent a ‘tyranny of the majority’ has now had the opposite effect due to Republican abuse. Observe the following chart:
Those last two lines represent the entirety of Republican filibuster threats in the past couple of years. They don’t even represent true filibusters, which require that the Congressperson stand and argue against the proposal for as long as they can tolerate it. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders demonstrated how this is done when he staged an eight and a half hour demonstration in opposition to the continuation of the tax cuts for the wealthy.
Why have the Republicans engaged in this egregious overuse of a procedural matter? Because Mitch McConnell made a calculated risk when President Obama was elected with Democratic majorities in both houses. McConnell basically created a tyranny of the minority by refusing to allow cloture on every bill that came to the Senate floor. Republicans blocked Presidential nominees if they couldn’t get pork barrel money to their individual states. If the Republicans couldn’t win, then neither would Obama.
To be sure, the Obama administration made their own calculations and picked the hardest battle to win rather than the lowest hanging fruit. They went after Health Care Reform first during the brief period when they had a filibuster-proof Senate. That period existed between the time Norm Coleman finally conceded to Al Franken on July 8, 2009 and Massachusetts voters elected Scott Brown to replace the late Ted Kennedy on February 4, 2010; roughly seven months. President Obama knew that this would be the only time he would ever have to realistically pass health care in the face of hostile Republican resistance.
So how is Mitch McConnell’s strategy working out? Let me count the ways.
Health Care Reform. McConnell called for complete and uniform opposition to the biggest landmark reform in over a century to a system whose costs were spiraling ever out of control while dropping the American public from coverage at an ever increasing rate. Much of these reforms were Republican ideas. Next year the Republicans plan to defund the implementation of HCR. Do they seriously think that will get past the Senate much less the President’s veto pen after the year long battle to get it passed? This will be seen as a tremendous waste of the Congress’ time that would be better spent improving the bill that has already passed.
The tax cuts. Republicans claimed they would refuse to debate or vote on any other issue until the tax cuts were addressed. More specifically, they want the tax cuts extended indefinitely for the upper bracket even though they admit that this will drive the deficit through the roof. This forever cancels out the myth that Republicans are fiscal conservatives. In fact, their willingness to hold legislation hostage is nothing short of showing up at the US Treasury with bandit masks and demanding future generations of income taxes. Republicans have shown that they have no problem spending tax dollars so long as it’s on themselves and their corporate cronies. This will only work in reelection if the loyal zombies continue to believe what they hear on FOX, Limbaugh, etc.
Despite repeated calls to not deal with hostage takers, President Obama worked out a compromise with Republicans on a temporary extension of the tax cuts. The President has hinted that this is the Republicans last time at the trough and they won’t be extended again at the end of 2012. While this initially infuriated the Democratic base, it turned out to be a winning strategy since it gave Republicans no excuse to ignore other items on the agenda. Such as…
Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Way to forever alienate the Gay/Lesbian vote. This also completely de-legitimized John McCain as a serious legislator. It turns out he is just an angry old guy yelling at the fags to get off his lawn even though his wife and daughter have taken a stand that DADT is discriminatory. McCain is a walking contradiction unafraid to use his vote as a means of revenge rather than principle. Score a historic victory for Obama and civil rights.
Unemployment benefits. Way to kick the chronically hurt in the midst of a recession at 10% unemployment. Legitimate economists agree that opposition to this would hurt the economy. Republicans refuse to grasp the concept that their trickle down policies have failed to create more jobs and that the unemployed have no one to blame but themselves. The unemployed are unemployed because there are no jobs, not because they want to be unemployed. I’m sure the Republicans believe that their constituents all have jobs unlike those liberal, pot smoking losers. Ebeneezer Scrooge is alive and well this season; and he’s a staunch Republican.
DREAM act. Way to forever alienate Latino and Hispanic votes. The latino vote is the Democrats to lose. Come 2012, Democrats need to constantly remind Hispanic voters how the Republicans shot down their chance to get an education or serve the country where they grew up. President Obama and Harry Reid say this fight is not over yet.
9/11 First Responders Health Care Bill. The opposition to this one is really surprising. Those first responders should be treated like any other war veteran/hero. They are suffering from the equivalence of throwing themselves on a slow exploding grenade. That Republicans would oppose this bill at all is unpatriotic at best and petty partisan politics at worst clearly indicative that their priorities lay with their self interests alone. My guess is they just made democratic converts out of a large number of firefighters, police, EMTs and other emergency support workers.
The Omnibus Budget Bill. Republicans suddenly decided they hated earmarks, despite the fact that they proposed most of them in the Omnibus bill and despite the fact it will make little difference in over all savings. They forced Harry Reid to withdraw the bill. The Government will not have any money by the end of the year. Hey, Newt Gingrich got the band back together. How’d that tour go the first time around?
The New START Treaty. Opposition to this is quite possibly the most egregious of all. The Republicans have a long history of sponsoring these kinds of agreements beginning with the original SALT talks and continuing with the first START treaty negotiated under Ronald Reagan. Opposing this landmark agreement not only puts American security at risk, it endangers the rest of the world as well and risks damaging our foreign relations with Russia who already agreed with the President on this one.
But this is where McConnell’s caucus began to unravel. Cooler heads in the Republican Party prevailed and enough defected to ratify this critical treaty. McConnell got egg on his face and Lindsay Graham declared that ‘Democrats have eaten our lunch’. It turns out that President Obama was indeed playing rope-a-dope with the party of nope.
If independent voters, undecideds, and the just plain too busy to notice were even half awake during this lame duck session, their disgust with the McConnell Gambit will likely show up at the polls in 2012. Throw in a little Tea Party wackiness and the carnage in the Republican party should be interesting to watch.
I am uncertain how the next two years will play out. I suspect we won’t see much progress but perhaps this not so lame duck session will have convinced some of the saner Republicans to do what they actually were sent to Washington to do…govern; not obstruct.
- Barack Obama Enjoys ‘Comeback Kid’ Bounce (The Telegraph)
- The New Comeback Kid (The Washington Post)
- Political Brinksmanship: Republicans picked a silly fight over START, and they lost badly (Slate.com)
- What’s Happened to John McCain? The angry man puzzles pundits and Arizonans (Winnipeg Free Press)
- John McCain Still Angry At 2008 Presidential Defeat, Conversations With Advisers & Analysts Reveal (The Daily Beast)
- How Republicans Broke the Senate (the Rachel Maddow Show)
- Will Democrats Gut the Filibuster? [Congress] (gawker.com)
- “After Spending Bill Implodes, Reid Schedules Vote on DADT Repeal” and related posts (tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com)
- Why McConnell Doesn’t Bother With Pretense (washingtonmonthly.com)
- Mitch McConnell Will Do Whatever John McCain (And Not America) Tells Him (queerty.com)
- Last Night, Mitch McConnell Tried a Last-Ditch Amendment to Defense Bill to Block ‘DADT’ Repeal (towleroad.com)
- Will Republican Arrogance Finally Push Democrats to Reform the Filibuster? (crooksandliars.com)
- Senator McConnell Takes DADT Cues From John McCain (pinkbananaworld.com)
- BYRON YORK: Smiling Dems Will Soon Cry “Washington Is Broken!” With a significantly smaller, 53-… (pajamasmedia.com)
- Mitch McConnell’s Iron Grip Slips (Politico)
- Obama vs. McConnell: Who’s the Grown-up? (Politics Daily)