Once upon a time, Congressional representatives had the guts to bring up controversial bills, state their views openly, and go on the record with a yea-or-nay vote. Those days are long gone. Today, we see the depths to which Congressional Republicans have sunk: If they can’t repeal Obamacare with an open vote (which they’ve tried many times), they’ll try to kill it by using obscure rules to block its implementation. If they don’t want to openly demonstrate—once again—their unpopular obstructionism, they’ll go passive-aggressive with backdoor, bureaucratic tactics.
Here’s their latest gambit, which represents an escalation in tactics to obstruct, as reported [May 9, 2013] by David Hawking, a veteran Congressional Quarterly reporter:
Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced they would simply ignore a provision in the health care law calling on each leader to pick someone for a new panel with the power to dictate Medicare spending reductions without fear of congressional reversal.
The two said in a letter to Obama that such a bureaucratic maneuver was the best way they knew to protest the new Independent Payment Advisory Board, in light of their inability to kill it by repealing Obamacare completely.
At the same time, all eight Republicans boycotted this morning’s meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which under a wrinkle in the rules prevented the panel from advancing Gina McCarthy’s nomination to run the EPA.
The protest came less than 18 hours after the Republicans on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel leveraged another obscure procedural obstacle to stop Thomas E. Perez’s nomination for Labor secretary from getting to the Senate floor.
The question for the GOP is whether those oppositional tactics, which are all about passive parliamentary maneuvering rather than overt ideological argument, will provide any traction for their policy objectives or if they will only succeed at further annoying an electorate wary of partisan hijinks.
It seems as though Congressional Republicans do not fear political repercussions from these tactics. And as long as their greatest fear is being challenged by an even more radically right Republican, we’re going to continue to see these junior-high shenanigans and the crippling of government—meaning the degradation of our democracy—all because Republicans hate Obama more than they care about doing what’s right for the greater good of the country.
Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.