Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Votes and Vetoes and Filibusters, Oh My"

It was just yesterday when I read about the impending veto of another stem-cell bill that I wondered to myself "why aren't the Dems sending something "good" up to the White House for a veto on a weekly basis?" It would give the impression that they are trying to get shit done, and would make Bush veto something that, in all liklihood, is supported by the majority of the country... Everybody already hates the guy, I say continue kicking him while's down. Who cares if we don't have the votes to overturn a veto? Make Congressional Republicans go on record twice voting against it.

As John Judis in TNR points out; in the late 80s, the Dems sent Bush 41 plenty of popular items to veto:
...Mitchell and Foley sent Bush 36 pieces of legislation that he vetoed. These included the Family and Medical Leave Act, tax relief and urban aid (in the wake of the Los Angeles riots), extended jobless benefits (during a recession), a crime bill, the removal of a Bush administration ban on federal funding of fetal tissue research (which had been instrumental to discovering a polio vaccine), a bill removing the gag rule that forbade federally funded family planning counselors from discussing abortion, a bill regulating cable rates, and a campaign finance measure.

Sounds like a plan, right? Kevin Drum (the source of the above Judis quote) and Steve Benen point out the difference between the late 80s and now.
Unfortunately, all of these votes, as Judis acknowledges, required support from Republican moderates in order to pass. But that strategy pretty clearly won't work in today's Senate, which contains no more than half a dozen Republicans who could truly be called moderate. And even those half dozen are rarely willing to join Democrats in passing moderate legislation. The Gingrichization of the Republican Party has made moderate insubordination too costly to seriously consider.

The result is that Senate Republicans can filibuster anything they want to keep off Bush's desk, allowing through only those bills that he's willing to sign — or those in which a veto is actually helpful to the cause. Democrats simply don't have the ability to force moderate legislation to the Oval Office as veto bait.


Benen adds:
Consider what we’ve seen the last few months when it comes to GOP obstructionism. Senate Republicans have filibustered a non-binding resolution criticizing Gonzales, a minimum-wage increase, a debate over a non-binding resolution on the war (twice), and a bill that would have led to lower prices on prescription medication. And that doesn’t even include procedural hurdles in committees. (All from the party that whined about non-existent obstructionism for six years.)

Why has Reid failed to garner moderate GOP support the way Mitchell did? Because the numbers just aren’t there. Reid has 51 members in his caucus. One of them is Joe Lieberman. Another is Tim Johnson, who has been physically unable to work. So, to break a filibuster, Reid starts with 49 votes and looks around for Republican moderates.

If we want more progress, we’ll need to give Reid more Democrats.

Let me first say that these are two bloggers I like alot especially Benen—The Carpetbagger Report is indispensible reading to me—but this is crap.

"Give Reid more Democrats?" Well, that ain't happening the rest of the time Bush is President, so that's not really a plan. And besides, it's a cop-out. The whole fucking thing is a cop-out. Drum says the Republicans "filibuster anything they want to keep off Bush's desk"? Really? I don't remember reading about any "filibusters" do you? We heard plenty about it—and how bad it was for the country—when the Democrats were in the minority, but I don't really hear much about it now. Why is that?

Because Reid isn't making the Republicans "filibuster" anything. He counts heads and has a cloture vote, which brings debate to an end artificially, and they move on to the next item. Bullshit. MAKE. THEM. ACTUALLY. FILIBUSTER. Make these assholes actually go to the podium and speak. I don't care if they argue their positions or read the phone book, make them earn it. Reid is letting them off easy with an "implied" filibuster. Fuck that.

The Republicans invested heavily in painting the filibuster as the last resort of desperate obstructionists. Make them fucking wear it. It highlights their hypocrisy, it won't win them any fans (or at least will confound and confuse) their moronic base, and puts them—and here's the important part—visibly on the wrong side of issues popular with everybody else.

The Democrats swept back into power by promising a bold new direction. Reid (and Pelosi) are ceding too much to the Republicans in Congress and Bush if they continue to let them stall and run out the clock until 2008. They may not actually be able pass any bold new initiatives with their slim majorities, but they sure as hell should look like they're trying.

"More Democrats?" Great. But first lets outfit the ones we have with some testicles.

11 comments:

Mike said...

At the end of the day, the cynical view -- that the Dems don't really want to change the status quo -- has to gain some traction.

I don't really see any other explanation. They're ultimately beholden to most of the same lobbying groups and industries as the GOP.

Mr Furious said...

Yep. The Dems were just given the once-a-generation opportunity to hang it all on the other side and escape the "They're all crooked" conventional wisdom, and they are rapidly pisiing it away.

There will be nothing left of it in 2008.

Smitty said...

The Republicans invested heavily in painting the filibuster as the last resort of desperate obstructionists. Make them fucking wear it.

Yes, yes and yes some more. Careful what you wish for, you motherfuckers. You're gonna wear it.

Or at least that's what Reid could say if he had any fucking balls.

And...as a lobbyist...yeah, maybe we do need some more regulation. We are, afterall, masters at finding loopholes that allow us to conduct our business as usual. While lobbying is as much a part of Democracy as voting, the influence that the almighty PAC wields is inappropriate. I could go on and on about lobbying firms capturing huge PACs not so much for having them as a client but more for being able to gobble-up precious face-time with legislators as others with smaller or less PACs are left in the cold as well as other stuff, but I'll leave that for my own blog.

S.W. Anderson said...

Furious, your strategy has merit and I like it. But to use an overused expression, at the end of the day, Reid lacks the votes. That's the PITA fact of life right now.

S.W. Anderson said...

Mike wrote:

"(Democrats are) ultimately beholden to most of the same lobbying groups and industries as the GOP."

Much, much less so now than during Clinton's presidency, and deliberately so. Thank Howard Dean's leadership and the declining influence of the DLC for much of that.

Also thank the fact that with Republicans holding total control of the federal government for almost six years (Dems controlled the Senate briefly), big-money interests felt liberated from having to cover their bets by giving Democrats some money, albeit much less than they gave the GOP.

So now, some bridges are burned and Democrats are seeing their way clear to making it without sucking the corporate teat.

Mike said...

Interesting thoughts, SW. I agree.

But then why are they doping so little to deliver what the electorate seemed to demand last November?

S.W. Anderson said...

Mike, see my response to Mr. F's post. That's the bottom line here. Congress is all about numbers and the votes just aren't there yet. Come fall, as Republicans in Congress see their election chances going down Bush's one-holer, look for a bunch of them to cross over and vote with Dems.

The White House had better not count on another big supplemental appropriation without strings about getting the hell out of Iraq.

Mr Furious said...

The White House had better not count on another big supplemental appropriation without strings about getting the hell out of Iraq.

I'll believe it when I see it. The Pentagon and White House have already begun moving the 6-month goalpost back again. The GOP seems more than happy to punt this mess to the next Administration.

Mr Furious said...

As to the "votes not being there," I don't care. I'd rather fight and lose some of these votes than cave ahead of time.

Congress has an approval rating that is half of Bush's (14% vs 26-28%) I contend that it's not because Congress is doing a worse job, but it's because they are letting Bush continue to fuck things up, particularly Iraq.

What should be a clarion call for resolve and action for the Dems will likely lead instead to timidity and compromise as they try to "get things done."

Voters gave the Dems both Houses because they wanted to put the brakes on one-party rule. Gridlock, pushing back and battles with Bush are what we want.

Get it fucking started, already.

S.W. Anderson said...

"Congress has an approval rating that is half of Bush's (14% vs 26-28%) I contend that it's not because Congress is doing a worse job, but it's because they are letting Bush continue to fuck things up, particularly Iraq."

Furious and everyone, please see this excellent post at The Anonymous Liberal:

That Poll Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

Then, if you're interested in my 2 cents:

What Congress’ low poll numbers don’t mean

Again, Mr. F., I like your pro-fight strategy and share your feelings to a great extent.

S.W. Anderson said...

Heh, looks as though Reid is about to go for it. This is from an AP story out this evening:

"Next month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to force votes on several anti-war proposals as amendments to a 2008 defense policy bill. Members will decide whether to cut off money for combat, demand troop withdrawals start in four months, restrict the length of combat tours and rescind Congress' 2002 authorization of Iraqi invasion.

"Expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass controversial legislation, the proposals are intended to increase pressure on Bush and play up to voters frustrated with the war."