Thursday, June 28, 2007

The GOP: Grand Obstruction Party

Republicans have been making noise for a couple of weeks about how little the U.S. Senate is allegedly getting done now that Democrats have a scant majority and it's past time to set the record straight. Given their role in intentionally obstructing almost every issue that's come before the 110th Congress, the Senate's GOP leadership criticizing the Upper House's 2007 progress is a bit like Ann Coulter blaming the media for the impression that she's a bile-spewing gargoyle.

But first, an instructive video from Senate Democrats on what it's been like trying to work with Republicans in the first six months of the new Congress:

And the compelling thing is that this is all a matter of public record and not something that people need to believe simply because it comes from the Democratic leadership or yours truly.

The fact is that Senate Republicans have obstructed almost every bill in the Senate so far this year - and this includes the ones with wide, bipartisan support.

In the first half of the first session of the 110th Congress, there have been 13 cloture votes on motions to proceed. This kind of formal vote to simply proceed with debate isn't often required and only occurs when one party cannot agree to even move forward with debate and a subsequent up-or-down vote on an issue.

Republicans have forced 13 of those in less than six months. To give you an idea of how obstructionist that is, there were only four cloture votes on motions to proceed in the two years comprising the first sessions of the 108th and 109th Congresses.

"Once known as the Grand Ole Party, today the Republican Party can more aptly be described that the ‘Grand Obstructionist Party,’” said Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday. “Perhaps they see progress in a new Congress as defeat for them rather than a win for the American people. Whatever the reason, they need to know that by their obstructionism, they’re not hurting Democrats, they’re slighting the American people.”

And the GOP blockades have not gone up over routine procedures or measures of no consequence, having slowed critical legislation such as the following:
  • Fulfilling the 9/11 Commission Recommendations (Eventually passed 97-0, Roll Call Vote #53)
  • Improving security at our courts (Eventually passed 93-3, Roll Call Vote #133)
  • Water Resources Development Act (Eventually passed 89-7, Roll Call Vote #162)
  • A joint resolution to revise U.S. policy in Iraq (Eventually passed 89-9, Roll Call Vote, #74)
  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform (Eventually passed 69-23, Roll Call Vote #173)
  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform (Eventually passed 64-35, Roll Call Vote #228)
  • CLEAN Energy Act ( Passed 91-0, Roll Call Vote #208)
  • Funding for the Intelligence Community (Eventually passed 94-3, Roll Call Vote #129)
Republicans have also blocked debates from even being held on the Senate floor on raising the minimum wage, ethics reform, immigration reform and providing funding for renewable energy.

"Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a bill that would permit the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries," read an article in the April 19, 2007 Boston Globe. "The 55-42 vote was five short of what Democrats needed to end debate and begin voting. While Democrats hold majorities in the US House and Senate, yesterday's procedural move by Republicans could indicate rough waters for other proposals that affect pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including legislation to permit generic versions of biologic drugs."

I guess when you're a Republican, having seniors on fixed incomes paying lower prices for their prescription drugs is the toughest pill to swallow.

"Senate Republicans rejected an effort by Democrats to pass minimum-wage legislation without breaks for small businesses on Wednesday, setting the stage for a potential impasse with the House, where lawmakers are demanding a 'clean' bill," reported a January New York Times piece. "The Senate vote of 54 to 43 was six votes short of the 60 needed to move ahead with a wage measure that does not include tax benefits for employers."

In this case, Congressional Republicans couldn't bear to see the working poor get their first pay hike in ten years unless Democrats agreed to yet more tax breaks for business.

And, of course, Senate Republicans have done everything in their power to protect Bush's boy, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who, after all, is only guilty of turning a Justice Department meant to do the peoples' legal business into a political machine for the White House.

And so it has gone for the first 25 percent of the 110th Congress. And, sick as it sounds, you can bet that when the 2008 election season hits and Republicans are looking at even more losses in Congress and, we hope, the White House, they'll trot out their sorry ethics and work habits as an indictment of how little work Democrats have done.

I suppose life is so much easier when you have no shame.

From Bush's rubber stamps in the 109th Congress to roadblocks in the 110th… These guys must feel very proud to go to work in the morning.