Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was one of the lead off hitters in the Democratic Party line up last evening at the national convention in Charlotte, NC. He sized up the gridlock in Washington, D.C. succinctly:
“In the depth of the Great Recession, as millions of Americans were struggling to find work, the Republican leader of the senate, Mitch McConnell, said Republicans’ number one goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. They wouldn’t cooperate to create jobs. They wouldn’t try to turn around the economy. They wouldn’t do anything but stand in President Obama’s way.
I’ve had a front-row seat to watch the Tea Party take over the Republican Party. For three and a half years, they wouldn’t govern. They couldn’t lead. And we shouldn’t let them take over the Senate and the White House.” [HuffPo]
Wouldn’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t sum things up nicely. Unfortunately, fact checking isn’t necessary. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) famously told the National Journal back in October 2010, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” [Examiner] October 2010 also happened to be the first month in the previous five months in which the employment numbers move upward.
“Payrolls climbed 151,000, exceeding all estimates in a Bloomberg News survey of economists and following a revised 41,000 drop the prior month that was smaller than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Private payrolls expanded the most since April, while the jobless rate held at 9.6 percent.” [Bloomberg]
So, in October 2010 was the Republican leadership focused on moving the unemployment number off the 9.6% mark? No, merely on making President Obama a one-term president. Taking “Just Say No” into new realms, the Senate Republicans under McConnell’s leadership exercised the filibuster like small children who’ve just discovered the joys of mud puddles:
To date in the 112th Congress, 104 cloture motions have been filed (motions to stop filibusters), there have been 64 cloture votes, and filibusters have been broken only 33 times. During the 111th Congress (2009-2010) there were 137 filibusters, 91 cloture votes, and the filibusters were broken 63 times. [Senate] The filibusters indicate how unwilling the Republicans were to govern, and how even less willing they were to offer leadership.
Inevitably, when the numbers are on the table for all to see, the Republicans whine that “the President wouldn’t work with us…,” “HE wouldn’t lead,” or “HE didn’t compromise. First, it was perfectly evident during the time prior to the passage of the ARRA, altogether too much of which was comprised of tax cuts of minimal utility and not enough of which was comprised of infrastructure investments, and automatic stabilizer enhancements of maximum utility. Having draped all manner of tax cuts on the stimulus bill the GOP had the temerity to announce that it was a “failure” before it even got started.
“…it’s easy to take a lie like “the stimulus failed” and turn it into a right-wing “fact.” Start by calling it “the failed stimulus” even before the bill goes into effect. Then keep repeating that same phrase, even as we go from losing 800,000 jobs a month to creating private sector jobs for 29 months.” [NatMemo]
The same process was used during the development of the health reform bill (ACA) … the Republicans couldn’t take “yes” for an answer, then they created their very own “Debt Crisis” and again wouldn’t accept any long term deficit reduction suggestions from the White House. This isn’t governance, it’s 100% pure obstructionism.
The elections in 2010 made a bad situation worse. The deterioration began with a dinner in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2009:
“According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.
For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.” [HuffPo] (emphasis added)
If the date sounds vaguely familiar — January 20, 2009 was the date on which President Barack Obama was inaugurated. The President was attending Inaugural festivities and the congressional Republicans were having a four hour dinner planning how to obstruct the new Administration. The gear jamming game began as soon as the whistle blew.
The gridlock only grew worse as the Tea Party Republicans took over the Republican Party in Congress and rendered any attempts at compromise, even intra-party compromise, futile. For purist ideologues the very basis for governance, compromise between sincerely invested views, was unconscionable. Thus the spectacle of a House of Representatives voting over and over and over again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or to legislate anti-abortion bills going nowhere, refusing to pass the American Jobs Act, and yielding little more than a 13.8% approval rating for the 112th Congress as of August 23, 2012. [RCP]
When Congress, stymied by GOP intransigence, can’t lead and won’t govern it can expect to be less popular than banks, Pakistani President Zardari, and the Long Island Power Company. [ABC]
IF the Republicans hadn’t been engaged in obstructionism from Inauguration Day onward, and IF they had entered into sincere discussions of issues surrounding the content of the Affordable Care Act, or IF they had given the American Jobs Act even some cursory attention inside the Capitol, THEN their charges of “failed” leadership might not ring so hollow.
As things stand, Senator Reid is right: “For three and a half years, they wouldn’t govern. They couldn’t lead. And we shouldn’t let them take over the Senate and the White House.”