Don’t look now, but the filibuster is back in style – it just isn’t “called” the filibuster. But with all of the whining during 2005 and 2006 about “upperdown votes” and “nuclear options” and “obstructionist Democrats” a strange but not unexpected thing has happened during this still-young Congressional Session.
Yesterday’s failure to invoke cloture on what I said over a week ago was already a stupid vote that wouldn’t accomplish anything, and would frankly be counterproductive was just the latest in a string of obstructionist moves by the Senate republican minority that have prevented bills from seeing the Senate floor and getting their “upperdown vote”.
Already, in just over five months, cloture votes have failed 13 times and have been withdrawn 6 times. Compared to the entire two year session of the 109th Congress - there were only 19 failed cloture votes (including two on John Bolton) and 14 votes that were withdrawn.
Suddenly – after the republicans lost power in the Senate (not to mention Congress in general), the talk shifted from “Democrats better not dare to obstruct Senate business by filibustering” and “Democrats should let these bills/nominees/issues get their fair upperdown vote” to “conventional wisdom is that you need 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done”.
Um, excuse me, but why now do no Democrats call bullshit on this shift in discussion and the accepting of this double standard? Why not (since they haven’t already) start pointing out how the republican party is thwarting the will of the people by not allowing bills and legislation to come to the floor? Why isn’t Gonzales getting his “upperdown vote” (regardless of how toothless it is)?
Yesterday’s failure gives coverage to those republicans who can now say they voted “against Bush and Gonzales” without any repercussions whatsoever. Yet, Gonzales didn’t even get “a vote” to begin with. From the standpoint of “message”, the Democrats are falling behind in a number of ways. They are allowing themselves to be lumped in with Bush on the immigration bill – regardless of whether it is true or not. They are allowing themselves to look weak on Iraq – even as they basically stand for looking for a way to end the occupation.
There were some very good things in the Iraq supplemental bill (very few of which related to Iraq) – like the minimum wage hike. Yet, they were labeled as “pork spending” - not to mention that a lot of this funding was related to bills that the last republican controlled Congress punted at the end of December 2006. Not having the media outlets is only so much of an excuse. Certainly it should be noted that the republicans are obstructing Senate business by having 2/3 as many cloture votes fail during the first five months as the entire two year prior session. Now, it doesn’t have to be said in so many words.
But this whole “60 votes is needed for anything” line – true or not – was embraced way too quickly and there was no mention of the fact that there is a whole lot of obstructing going on in the Senate. Screw the “60 votes is needed” crap. That line only holds because the obstructionist republicans who whined so much about Democrats obstructing Senate business are doing a fine job of obstructing on their own.
This is a no brainer. As poorly as the Democrats have done in the public’s eyes, the republicans are viewed in a lesser light. Add the “obstructionist” label to them and point it out every single time that the obstructionist republicans use their obstruction to obstruct - whether it is justice, Senate business or the will of the American people – and the Democrats might finally be able to stop wringing their hands and start putting more pressure on the republicans in the minority.
After all, there’s a new Congress in town, right?