We’ve talked a lot recently about whether the Republicans are being shut out of the governing process. This is to the good, and I wanted to add more information and perspective.
Much of the public has had its unfamiliarity with the legislative process used against them in a particularly devious fashion. Congressional Republicans have blocked all legislation of any substance since Obama became president. No other president has ever faced such a total effort to shut down our national legislature’s ability to govern. Not FDR. Not LBJ. Not Reagan. Nobody. There have been more GOP filibusters in 2010 alone than in the entire 1950s and 1960s combined — the two busiest decades of the civil rights movement.
Simultaneously, the conservative media began a massive P.R. campaign to convince the public that they are the true victims of obstructionism and that their fine ideas are just being ignored. This was ingenious: every public discussion of obstructionism must now be a he-said-she-said about who’s obstructing whom or else it isn’t “objective.”
But, there’s much, much, more. For example…
Nominee Holds: Senate Republicans have refused to allow votes on over 200 of Obama’s key nominees (both with filibusters and other process called “holds”), usually for absolutely no stated reason. Because of this, key positions — including in national security and intelligence — are vacant and have been for over a year. No TSA director, (even after the underpants bomber attack!). Almost no key Treasury Department posts despite the worst financial crisis since WWII. Almost all judicial nominees remain blocked. Justice Department, State Department. And on and on.
This also is unprecedented in American history. No opposition party ever has refused to allow a president to staff his government with qualified nominees of his choice. Reagan got almost all of his nominees. GWB at a similar point had only 70 nominees unconfirmed, and the Democrats only filibustered about 5% of his judicial nominees over eight years. The GOP claims filibusters are to prevent wild, Commie laws from passing. Their refusal to allow hundreds of highly-qualified people to carry out the basic functions of government put the lie to this propaganda.
Last Week’s New Unprecedented Low. Republican Senator Richard Shelby (AL) has put a hold on ALL nominees for all offices until Democrats agree to change an earmark to award two defense contracts to a (foreign!) firm that will build the stuff in his state. This is hostage taking and borderline disloyal. Imagine the wall-to-wall media coverage if a Democrat had done this under Bush.
Does anyone really believe that Obama is trying to take us in a more radical direction than FDR, Lincoln, oe Reagan? Please. The Republicans are just slashing the fire truck’s tires in the hope that the public will award them the contract to drag away your house’s ashes.
More 21st cenury American civics lessons later.