Friday, December 18, 2009

Republican "patriots" filibuster the Defense appropriation bill

OK, Republicans and right-wingers do not have a monopoly on hypocrisy and cynical irresponsibility. But right now anyone trying to pretend that there is anything resembling moral equivalence between Republicans and Democrats is simply not willing to face reality (and/or is a Republican propagandist). As 2009 draws to a close, the alleged superpatriots of the Senate Republican caucus, bringing their strategy of single-minded and increasingly undisguised obstructionism to a climax, made it clear they were willing to filibuster the military funding bill in order to bring the Senate's business to a halt and prevent a vote on health care reform.
Asked if he would vote for the defense bill, which Republicans routinely support, Senator Sam Brownback Republican of Kansas, replied bluntly: “No. I don’t want health care.”
As Mark Kleiman correctly suggests, if there is any justice in the world (which there usually isn't), this display of utterly cynical political irresponsibility will not be forgotten (but it probably will be):
With troops in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq, Senate Republicans almost unanimously voted to filibuster the Defense Appropriations bill, merely as a procedural maneuver to block a vote on health care. The Republican vote would indeed have been unanimous had Russ Feingold, who opposes the wars, not agreed to vote for cloture in spite of that fact. Once it got to be clear that Reid had 60 votes to move the bill, three Republicans decided to cast meaningless votes for cloture. The other thirty-seven Republicans [JW: including John McCain, incidentally] decided to be more honest about their utterly corrupt cynicism.

They should hear about this at election time.
=> Let's review a historical trend. From 1947 through 1971, there was not a single year in which more than 5 filibusters had to be ended with cloture votes, and in many of those years there were 1 or 2 cloture motions or even none. Filibusters and threats of filibusters happened, but they were rare and exceptional.

Then the frequencies began to increase, gradually but unevenly, reaching a peak of 32 cloture votes in 1974 and again in 1975, declining for a while, and then resuming their growth. Now let's jump ahead to the 109th Congress, from January 2005 through December 2006 (when Democrats were last in the minority in the Senate): 68 cloture motions were filed to break filibusters, or 34 per year.

Then the Republicans lost their Congressional majorities in the November 2006 elections, and as they returned to the minority, the annual frequency of Senate filibusters abruptly doubled. From January 2007 through January 2009 139 cloture motions were filed--about 70 per year. This year, as of December 17, there have already been 64 cloture motions, with several weeks of December left to go (and about half of those cloture motions actually resulted in cutting off debate and letting a substantive vote go ahead).

And please note that those figures don't even include filibuster threats that block or delay measures without generating a cloture vote, something that has become routine. I think we can all see where this is going.

--Jeff Weintraub

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