Monday, July 16, 2007

Expose Obstructionists

On June 29th, Robert Borosage wrote:

Americans elected a new Congress to get things done. But the conservative minority has chosen a strategy of obstruction in the Senate. They have used the threat of a filibuster to delay or block virtually every major initiative. Bills with majority support—raising the minimum wage, ethics reform, a date to remove troops from Iraq, revoking oil subsidies and putting the money into renewable energy, fulfilling the 9/11 commission recommendations on homeland security—get blocked because they can’t garner 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

In its first 40 hours, the new majority of the House of Representatives kept their promise to voters and passed legislation—increasing the minimum wage for the first time in a decade, empowering Medicare to negotiate lower prices on drugs, cutting interest rates on student loans in half, revoking big oil subsidies and using the money to invest in renewable energy—that provided a down payment for a new direction for this country.

These bills are overwhelmingly popular, and are simply common sense reforms. Yet every one of them—and many more—got held up in the U.S. Senate.

Conservatives boast about the “success” of their strategy in discrediting the new majority. As Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., put it, “the strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. So far it’s working for us.”

How is it working? It’s dragging the reputation of the Congress down to the level of the failed president. Conservatives lie in the road of progress and then complain that nothing is moving.

This values partisan posturing over reforms vital to the country. It must be challenged.

It’s time to take the gloves off.

The first step is to expose the obstruction to the American people. Let’s urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to force a real filibuster. Keep the bills on the floor and force vote after vote, exposing the obstructionists. We’ll organize in states across the country to insure that their constituents know exactly who is standing in the way of progress.

On July 14th, Ian Welsh at FDL says:
What the Republicans have been doing is “filibustering” everything, then turning around and claiming that Democrats are the “do nothing Congress”. The response is to make it clear who’s holding everything up.

Make them physically filibuster. Choose a very popular bill (say drug reimportation from Canada), put it up straight with nothing else attached, and make them go 24/7. The news cycle will be dominated by the filibuster. Nobody will be talking about anything else but how Republicans are filibustering to make old people pay more for drugs (or whatever other “mom and apple pie” issue you choose.) I would personally put film in the can of old folks talking about how they have to eat dog food to pay for their meds, and start running ads which juxtapose “Old folk in horrible distress” then ask “And what does Senator McCain think of this” and show 15 seconds of him reading from a phone book. Note that you get ready to do ad buys not just because it hammers the message home, but because you know that media coverage may be unfavorable to you and you are prepared to get around the filter - you are not putting yourself at the mercy of other actors - including actors in the media.

There are two ways to deal with bad faith actors; to dealing with people who understand only force. One is to decide you’re willing to let them have what they want because you won’t pay the cost of opposing them. If they say “I’m going to hit you if you don’t give me your wallet” you can say “ok”. The second is to escalate. In the words of the Untouchables - if they bring a knife, you bring a gun; if they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue. When people understand only force, you must respond with maximum force. Anything else is taken as weakness and they will walk all over you.

Republicans walk all over Democrats because they can - because they know Democrats, at the end of the day, will fold nine times out of ten. It’s a good odds play. If Democrats want it to stop, they need to make the cost unbearable. Civility will return only when the costs of what amount to political violence have become to great for both sides to bear.

It would appear that Sen. Harry Reid listened and apparently so did Sen. Kent Conrad.

From Chris Bowers at OpenLeft:
In an interview with the Young Turks on Friday, Senator Kent Conrad indicated that there was "growing consensus" in the Democratic Senate caucus to actually make Republicans stand in the well of the Senate and filibuster popular Democratic legislation.

Cenk: Exactly, that's a perfect situation. We're actually going to make you physically filibuster it. Go ahead and give speeches for 24 hours a day. We're removing the rule that out of politeness and courtesy that we don't make you do that anymore. We're going to have you go and read the phone book, and tell us how much you're against stem cells or the minimum wage, or for rest for the troops.

Senator Kent Conrad: Yeah, I think there's a growing consensus that we ought to do that...I think that we could do a better job making our points, and one part of that is to let the American people see just how obstructionist this Republican minority is being. The leader has had to file cloture now over 40 times already this year. And cloture, as you know, is a special procedure to stop debate, to stop filibusters, in order to reach conclusion on legislation. 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.


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