The Senate Rules Committee is holding a hearing tomorrow to discuss the history of the filibuster, as Democrats consider their options for limiting GOP abuse of stalling tactics.
People For’s Marge Baker just released a memo on some of the GOP’s most egregious abuses of filibuster threats in the current Congress. She writes:
Although the bulk of the news coverage on nominations has focused on a few nominees singled out for very public attacks by the GOP and right-wing activists, it’s the lower profile nominations that most clearly illustrate the Republicans’ “Party of ‘No’” strategy. In dealing with those nominees, the GOP has undertaken a relentless and irresponsible campaign of obstruction that has frustrated the timely confirmation of the President’s nominees and diverted critical time, energy, and focus from other, equally critical business of the Senate.
The cases that Baker outlines—like that of Circuit Court Judge Barbara Keenan, who waited 124 days for a Senate floor vote on her nomination, only to find that no Republican Senator actually objected to her taking a place on the court—are frustrating examples of purely political obstruction. There’s not a consensus on what to do about the filibuster, but it’s clear that the extent to which the GOP has been using it just to stall the business of government is stunning.
Newt Gingrich, it seems, has learned a new word. The title of his talk tonight at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is “Becoming the Party of Yes.”
The party of “yes”?
It’s a worthy goal, but the GOP has a long way to go to get there. Last year, Republican Senators went to unprecedented lengths to slow down legislation, even targeting bills that many in their own party ended up voting for. They’ve blocked Executive Branch nominees at a rate never before seen. They even forced a time consuming cloture vote on judicial nominee Barbara Keenan even though not a single Republican was willing to oppose her on her merits. And, for a while, GOP Senators decided that it was in the best interest of the country if they didn’t show up to work after lunch.
The good news is that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted this morning to approve - again - Dawn Johnsen's nomination to head the Office of Legal Counsel. The bad news is that this was yet another party-line vote where the Republicans opposed an unquestionably qualified candidate solely because she was nominated by President Obama.
People For the American Way has carefully documented the unprecedented behavior of Congressional Republicans, as they have done everything in their power to stymie President Obama's nominations and administration-supported initiatives even if they have overwhelming support within their own caucus. Just this week, for instance, Republicans filibustered the nomination of Judge Barbara Keenan to the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, after every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee had voted in support of her nomination. When the filibuster was broken, she was confirmed 99-0. 99-0!
How do you explain a party whose position on more and more issues is determined simply on whether they can hurt President Obama, even when they agree with him?
If you consider today's GOP as a traditional political party in the mold of other political parties throughout American history, their behavior is surprising. But this is the party that impeached President Clinton, shut down the 2000 Florida recount, and launched vast voter disenfranchisement campaigns around the country.
So just what is today's GOP? Just six weeks after President Obama's inauguration, our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation foresaw the next step in the party's devolution in a powerful and prescient Right Wing Watch In Focus report: Dragged along by its most extreme base, today's Republican Party does not see itself as the minority party in a democracy. Instead, they increasingly see themselves as a resistance movement, a mindset appropriate for fighting a dictatorship, but not for working with a democracy's freely elected government.
No one who read that report has been at all surprised by the GOP efforts to sabotage the workings of the federal government. They made it clear over a year ago how they envision themselves in a nation that rejected them at the ballot box. Their behavior since has been consistent.
It's sad that the party of Abraham Lincoln has sunk so low.
And it's outrageous that qualified nominees are being blocked by the GOP's obstructionist tactics. Help put a stop to it here.