The Senate Republicans have made it clear since the beginning of 2009 they had no desire to reach bipartisan compromise with the Democrats. Instead they choose the surprisingly successful strategy pure obstructionism using a set of broken and arcane Senate rules. By effectively preventing the Democrats from governing (or preventing the Dems from governing effectively, take your pick), the Republicans have been able to tarnish their opponents in the eye’s of many voters, and therefore improve the GOP’s own election prospects.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has pretty much publicly made it his goal to prevent President Obama from governing or fulfilling his many campaign promises. From the New York Times:
“I am amused with their comments about obstructionism,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview. “I wish we had been able to obstruct more. They were able to get the health care bill through. They were able to get the stimulus through. They were able to get the financial reform through. These were all major pieces of legislation, and if I would have had enough votes to stop them, I would have.”
The President acknowledges this is a problem and at least claims to be frustrated about it, and yet, so far, he has done nothing to solve the problem. From The Hill:
“Obstruct more? Is that even possible?” Obama asked supporters in reference to McConnell’s remarks at a fundraiser in Wisconsin, according to a pool report.
Unfortunately, the answer to Obama’s rhetorical question is a resounding “Yes.” As long as there is an artificial 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, not only is it possible for Republicans to obstruct more, but it is almost guaranteed to get dramatically worse, and soon. Democrats are in all likelihood going to lose at least a few Senate seat this November, and after that happens, it will become even easier for McConnell to get the 41 votes necessary to block legislation.
We are rapidly approaching the “fool me twice” moment for Obama, and, to a large extent, for the American people when it comes to Obama. Republicans could not be more clear about their intent to use the broken Senate rules to prevent Obama from fulfilling any of his big campaign promises. If Obama is serious about comprehensive immigration reform, climate change legislation, EFCA, and a host of other Democratic tent poles, he can only make it happen by pushing and pushing hard for Senate rules reform to eliminate the filibuster. If the Senate rules aren’t changed, there appears no path and no hope for passing important, promised legislation–for the rest of his presidency.
I remember Obama making a lot of promises during the campaign, but I never remember him promising to defend the destructive, anti-Constitutional Senate rules that make it impossible for our government to function effectively. (In fact, I remember him promising to change the way Washington does business.) Faced with a promise of pure obstructionism from Republicans, Obama must either push for Senate rules reform to enable him to deliver on his promises or admit to his supporters that those promises were hollow and his word is meaningless. On this, there can be no “splitting the difference.” Being a “fierce advocate” can’t mean just talking support while allowing Sen. McConnell and some silly Senate rules to get in the way—it means doing what it takes to make change happen.