Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New frontiers in Senate Republican obstructionism

Have they run through all possible tricks for generalized procedural obstructionism? Far from it. It's amazing what you can accomplish by manipulating Senate rules if you're single-mindedly determined to gum up the works--and have no sense of shame or embarrassment, as well as no fear of suffering any political consequences.
The Republicans seem to be responding to the passage of health care and likely passage of the reconciliation measure by invoking little-known rules to slow everything down. Senate Republicans have used a rare tactic during the opening of Senate business to cancel or postpone committee hearings. [....]

Senate Democrats are decrying the tactic -- used yesterday to stop a subcommittee hearing on bark beetles and then today to slow a hearing on police training contracts in Afghanistan and cancel a Judiciary hearing on nominees -- as obstructionism beyond the pale. [....]
Further explanation and elaboration here.

=> In what has become their characteristically indiscriminate style, the Republicans had no qualms about blocking a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Chair of the committee, Sen. Carl Levin, was appropriately indignant:
"It is astounding to me that Republicans have taken a step of such pointless, blind obstructionism. It cannot achieve their goal of obstructing health care reform. Instead, they are obstructing a hearing that has nothing to do with the health care debate and everything to do with the defense of our nation. And they have disrupted the schedules of senior commanders who in two cases have traveled thousands of miles from their troops, and who would be providing the Senate with information on pressing national security topics such as North Korea's nuclear program, Chinese military capability and the threat of cyber-warfare. Our national security should not be held hostage to Republican pique over health care."
Well, it may be astounding, but by now it shouldn't be surprising. (In December 2009, for example, the Republicans 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.) It's going to be a long year.

--Jeff Weintraub