December 7, 2007

The Impasse in Congress: May We Make a Suggestion?

Hatched by Dafydd

The august New York Times has a snarky article about the inability of Congress to enact, well, almost any legislation at all under the Democratic leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%). It seems it's all the Republicans' fault -- mostly in the Senate -- for "blocking" the "Democrats’ legislative agenda":

As if there was [sic; subjunctive case] any doubt that Congress was on the verge of devolving into a carnival atmosphere, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, on Thursday proposed doing cartwheels down the center aisle of the Senate chamber to draw attention to Republican efforts to block legislation.

Here, in the Cirque du Senate, there is trash-talking, whining and finger-pointing, bickering and, occasionally, brief flashes of serious disagreement on policy. [I confess I rather like the epithet "Cirque du Senate."]

But with the clock ticking swiftly toward the end of the year and a stack of stalled legislation piling up, little is getting done in the Senate these days. And tempers are starting to boil over.

The Times lists several major pieces of legislation that Reid and Pelosi just cannot seem to shepherd through the Congress:

  • A bill to ease the "mortgage crisis" (if there really is one) caused by defaults on subprime housing loans;
  • Reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax, so it doesn't "drill a hole in the wallets of 23 million Americans next year;"
  • The energy bill;
  • The corporate farm welfare bill.
  • The federal budget, "which is needed to prevent a shutdown of the government;"

In addition, unpassed bills unmentioned by the Times include:

  • The supplemental funding bill for our troops currently on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • Extension of the USA PATRIOT Act;
  • Extension of the soon-to-expire FISA reform act;
  • The immigration and border-security bill;
  • Some acceptable health-insurance bill;
  • All of the mandatory appropriations bills, which are not the same thing as the budget bill (and Congress hasn't passed any of them);
  • Earmark reform -- though to be fair, I don't believe this was ever really planned for passage by the Democrats;
  • Not to mention fixes to such long-festering problems as the rapidly collapsing Social Security System, Medicare, and Medicaid, none of which has even been addressed by the 110th Congress.

Aside from that, however, the current Congress has been a bundle of legislative energy: They passed an increase in the minimum wage.

Democrats believe they have an explanation:

(Senate Democrats blame Republicans for blocking such bills.)

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, not yet rated), former Clinton apparatchik, goes even farther, suggesting the Democrats' real beef is with the Founding Fathers themselves:

The stalemate is creating sharp tension not only between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, but also between the Senate and the House, where Democrats have a larger majority and have been more successful in passing legislation only to see it blocked by Republican filibusters in the Senate.

“As an amateur student of constitutional history and as a member of Congress, I have come to the conclusion that the Senate was a historic mistake,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the No. 4 Democrat.

I'm sure James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington are deeply chagrined at not having performed up to Emanuel's high standards at that old constitutional convention in Philadelphia. But setting the incompetence of the Founders aside, Big Lizards has our own diagnosis, highlighted by this graf from the Times...

Mr. Reid, who turned 68 on Sunday and power-walks four miles a day, ultimately did not perform any gymnastics. But his fury over the inability to move the Democrats’ legislative agenda seemed to have deepened since Tuesday, when he accused President Bush of “pulling the strings on the 49 puppets he has here in the Senate.”

Well, there's yer problem right there!

The key difficulty lies in four little words above. The United States Senate currently comprises 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats, giving the Left a 51-49 majority -- the smallest possible. Yet what is Reid frustrated at being unable to enact? "The Democrats' legislative agenda."

The Times was truer than they thought when they used the phrase: Although the Democrats have only a small majority in the House and the slimmest possible in the Senate, they consistently act as if they have a supermajority: trying to cram odious, humiliating defeats down the GOP's throat, insulting and belittling them, trying to steamroll them into the ground, and in general, acting as if the minority is of no account whatsoever... as if Republicans didn't even exist.

You can't boot the minority in the rear, then expect them to help enact your "agenda." They're not dogs who can be cowed and buffaloed by bull-headed, mulish jackassery.

Over and over, the Democrat-controlled House passes "veto-bait" legislation that they know in advance will be utterly unacceptable to the Republicans in the Senate... who, unlike their House compadres, can do something about it; or failing that, utterly unacceptable to the president, who can also do something about it. (Clearly the former is what Emanuel was referring to by saying the Senate was "a historic mistake.")

But if Pelosi and her posse bulldoze their agenda through the House, knowing that it cannot possibly become law -- then it is the Democrats who are "obstructing" legislation, not the Republicans. The Democrats are just wasting their own time... and what is infinitely more insulting, wasting the time of the American people, as President Bush said in his recent press conference.

They're throwing away the opportunity to accomplish anything, to pass anything, to get anything at all done, just for the chance to grandstand, preen, and say "Oh what a good boy am I."

Shockingly enough, the current congressional approval rating on Real Clear Politics is 22.5%. Yet even as they set new lows in approval, Democratic egos soar, and they see themselves on a mission:

“What’s frustrating to me and, I think, most of the freshman members, if not all of them, is that partisan strategy seems to be more important than the policy considerations at stake,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky. “We all came here with mandates to change the country.”

Mr. Yarmuth said that he and many other House Democrats wanted their Senate colleagues to force Republicans to spend hours filibustering various bills, to illustrate for constituents why legislation is stalling.

Democrats blame Republican obstruction. “They are filibustering as if they are on steroids,” Mr. Reid said.

"Mandates to change the country." Into what -- France? Do Americans all agree on how to change the country? I certainly haven't seen any such consensus... but if there is a consensus on change in various areas, it sure doesn't favor the particular changes the Democrats want to enact: more spending, higher taxes, more illegal immigration, appeasement of Iran, and an American surrender in Iraq.

Not helping matters is the boorish way that Harry Reid belittles the Republicans. The line above about the GOP conference being "49 puppets" of the president is a perfect example: Not only is it something one would expect to flow from a Daily Kos "diary," not the mouth of the Majority Leader of the Senate -- it's absurd on its face. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%) is just a Bush puppet? John McCain (R-AZ, 65%)? Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%) and Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%)? Dick Lugar (R-IA, 64%)? John Warner (R-VA, 64%)?

Worse, Reid managed to enrage a senator who is actually his ideological soulmate on a number of issues. For some odd reason, Arlen Specter didn't seem to appreciate being called a Bush sock-puppet:

That reference to the Republicans, in a speech on the Senate floor, prompted Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, to accuse Mr. Reid of violating a rule prohibiting senators from imputing “any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.”

“It is my view that being called a puppet is in direct violation of that rule,” Mr. Specter said. He added: “I wonder if he is up to the job when he resorts to that kind of a statement, which only furthers the level of rancor.”

Specter, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and perhaps the third most powerful Republican in the Senate -- behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY, 84%) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (AZ, 92%) but ahead of Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (TE, 72%) -- almost nakedly says that Harry Reid is unfit to be Majority Leader of the United States Senate. I don't think I've ever seen the like.

But the more important conclusion is the obvious hatred for Republicans, and especially President George W. Bush, that almost visibly dribbles from Harry Reid's lips. His hatred and intolerance of the Other gives permission to the rest of the leadership and the back-benchers to voice the same bile... and it makes almost impossible the task of working together with Republicans to actually enact legislation.

Simply put, Democrats in Congress believe their life's mission is to save the world -- from Republicans. Not every Democrat, but most of them; and in at least one case, when Joe Lieberman refused to fake Bush Derangement Syndrome... Connecticut Democrats refused even to nominate him for reelection, forcing him to leave the party (and get elected anyway). And yes, I really did hear leftists refer to him as "Jew Lieberman" during the 2006 campaign; and I saw it printed on signs, as well. Along with Republican hatred, Jew hatred has become respectable, or at least fashionable, in many Democratic corners.

And they wonder why they have trouble passing "the Democrats' legislative agenda" through Congress. Well-a-day.

I suspect the obstructionism will continue -- the Democratic obstructionism. I don't see anything on the horizon that will change things... except, perhaps, the 2008 election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 7, 2007, at the time of 7:21 PM

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The following hissed in response by: levi from queens

Excellent and funny post BL. I liked it so much, I posted a huge hunk of it here. I hope you do not mind.

The above hissed in response by: levi from queens [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2007 6:41 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/08/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention updated throughout the day…so check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2007 8:30 AM

The following hissed in response by: Bookworm

When it became clear that the 2006 elections would favor the Democrats, I consoled myself by saying that it was probably just as well for the voters to get sick of the Republicans in 2006, so that they would have time to get sick of the Democrats by 2008 -- a much more important election because of the White House.

I was rather whistling in the dark when I said that, though, because I didn't see how, in a mere two years, a party could disgust the American public. It surprises me that after only a year, my ridiculous optimism gives every sign of being borne out. This is not much of an indicator of my perspicacity, of course. Instead, it is a real tribute to the Democrats' impressive capacity to govern horribly, a capacity greater than even I had imagined.

If you're on the other side of the aisle, you kind of have to admire a party that destroys itself without any help from you.

The above hissed in response by: Bookworm [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2007 9:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

“We all came here with mandates to change the country.”

The results of the 2006 Election were the average results for a second term bi-election, no matter who is in power that does not exactly translate into a mandate, though the Democrats have been trying to convince the American Public is was a watershed event

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2007 6:52 AM

The following hissed in response by: Jamie Irons


You wrote:

As if there was [sic; subjunctive case] any doubt...

As I am an enthusiastic reader of your passionate and highly intelligent analyses, I hope you'll forgive this pedantic quibble coming from an old student of Latin and ancient Greek, but the subjunctive is a mood, not a case...

Jamie Irons

The above hissed in response by: Jamie Irons [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2007 2:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Jamie Irons:

the subjunctive is a mood, not a case...

You're likely correct... but it still should have been "as if there were any doubt," which is the worse sin. The word-pair "as if" clearly implies unreality.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2007 5:36 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

I've noticed an odd thing. May Democrats seem to think we live in a parliamentary democracy as opposed by a Republic. Therefore when their party "won" the election of 2006 it was a mandate to "rule" as they see fit. This explains their frustration - the Republicans are "out of power" and should have no further say in how the country is governed.

This is funny, but also deeply disconcerting.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 8:40 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

... Ma[n]y Democrats seem to think we live in a parliamentary democracy...

A lot of Democrats are narcissistic, otherwise emotionally immature, or delusional.

As time goes on, it is more and more true that what they call "liberalism" or "progressivism", is a mental disorder.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 12:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

As time goes on, it is more and more apparent that my spelling is an embarrassment to all concerned. I shall endeavour to either think slower or type faster.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 4:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Were that the criterion, nobody would ever read Hugh Hewitt!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 5:00 PM

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