From One-Party Rule to Cry-Baby Caucus

It’s astounding to me that the Republican party can complain with a straight face that they aren’t getting enough input into the stimulus package (or any other Obama Administration agenda items). If think every Democrat who appears on TV (both of them) should do nothing but remind America how things worked in D.C. a few short years ago when the Republicans held a slimmer lead :

Congress’s majority parties have always dominated legislative action, but they typically have given the minority some voice — even if it has amounted to little more than a floor vote on a sure-to-lose alternative bill, or conference committee recommendations destined to be rejected along party lines. Often, majority party leaders have made enough concessions to attract a few votes from across the aisle, withstand some intra-party defections and tout a piece of legislation as “bipartisan.” (The conference on the original Medicare bill in 1965, when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, included Republicans. Roughly half of all House and Senate Republicans voted for the final legislation.)

Recently, however, GOP leaders have largely dispensed with such niceties. Senate Republicans rewrote a massive (and still-pending) energy bill with zero Democratic participation. And top House and Senate Republicans negotiated the complex Medicare bill with only two conciliation-minded Democrats — Sens. John Breaux (La.) and Max Baucus (Mont.) — in the room. (When some House Democrats barged in one day, Thomas, the Ways and Means chairman, halted the meeting until they left.)
. . .
These hardball techniques underscore a paradox of current U.S. politics: The electorate is almost evenly divided, but federal policymaking is increasingly one-sided. With only the narrowest of House and Senate margins, Republican leaders are deploying scorched-earth, compromise-be-damned tactics, as if they ruled the nation 80-20, not 51-49. Rather than building broader consensus, they have decided they can’t afford centrist compromises that might attract some Democratic support but lose even more votes from the GOP conservative wing.
. . .
Whereas House Republicans berated Democratic speaker Jim Wright in 1987 for extending a roll call — normally 15 minutes — by 10 more minutes, Hastert last month obliterated that record in order to cajole and badger enough colleagues into backing the Medicare bill. Sometimes the leaders’ partisanship seems almost cartoonish, as when Thomas summoned Capitol police to evict Democrats from a quiet meeting room. (The cops refused.)

Lest we pretend that the Republicans in Congress are sincere about their opposition to the tax-and-spend (get a new line, guys) nature of the stimulus bill, lemme remind you of what the GOP did when they controlled every branch of the federal government :

[Former Treasury Secretary Paul] O’Neill had been preaching that a fiscal crisis was looming and more tax cuts would exacerbate it. But others in the White House saw a chance to capitalize on the historic Republican congressional gains in the 2002 elections. Surely, Cheney would not be so smug. He would hear O’Neill out. In an economic meeting in the Vice President’s office, O’Neill started pitching, describing how the numbers showed that growing budget deficits threatened the economy. Cheney cut him off. “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” he said. O’Neill was too dumbfounded to respond. Cheney continued: “We won the midterms. This is our due.”

To sum up the last eight years, we’ve had one-party rule in Washington D.C. which had “fiscal conservatives” feeling entitled to spend taxpayer money like drunken sailors (which exacerbated the very fiscal crisis that the current Congress is trying to address). When the minority party tried to insert themselves in the legislative process, they were not only shunned completely, but the GOP leadership would shut down meetings until they left, hold open votes for hours until they got the results they wanted, and would actually call the police to have Democrats removed from meetings. Where the HELL do these guys get off complaining about partisanship?

This quote from the first article serves as a prescient coda on the hyperpartisan Bush years :

Nearly half the electorate — people who chose Democrats to represent them in Congress — are, to an increasing degree, disenfranchised. Their representatives aren’t simply outvoted on the House and Senate floors, they’re not even present when key legislation is discussed and refined. The pendulum always swings back eventually, though, and should the White House and Congress shift hands, this year’s brutal and partisan practices may ensure a retaliatory cycle in which each aggrieved party feels compelled to wreak vengeance, lest it be viewed as wimpish.

Even GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona recently warned: “The Republicans had better hope that the Democrats never regain the majority.”

Much to the chagrin of many on the left, Barack Obama is actually sincere about reaching across the aisle. He has added Republicans to his cabinet, made multiple efforts to include Republican leaders in the legislative process, and has made it clear that he wants to work in a bipartisan manner. If the Republican leaders want more, they can piss off. They’re getting a much better deal than Democrats ever got (nobody has called the cops yet). The GOP got their asses handed to them two election cycles in a row. The American people have soundly rejected the last eight years of Republican domination.

We won. This is our due.

10 thoughts on “From One-Party Rule to Cry-Baby Caucus

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  3. I feel compelled to remind you that the American electorate rejected the hyper partisan republicans. It is a safe bet that the same electorate will reject hyper partisan democrats. If the democrats want more than six years of rule perhaps including republicans in the legislative process is to their advantage. If the democrats seek vengeance they will be their own undoing.

    I don’t think you’re advocating for hyper partisanship and I should give you the benefit of the doubt that you are expressing frustration. If the democrats want to be the ruling party for a significant amount of time, they need to govern more competently then the republicans. Competence in governing includes not disenfranchising almost half of the electorate. I don’t see this point presented much in your essay about partisanship.

  4. If what the Obama and the Democrats are doing is what passes for hyper-partisanship, then the GOP rule from 2001-2005 amounts to dictatorial control over every branch of the federal government. I think making a sincere effort at bipartisanship is laudable, but at a certain point, Democrats need to remind Republicans of the much, much worse treatment they received when Bush was president. Unlike then, the Republicans actually have a seat at the table now. If that’s not good enough for them, they can go fuck off until they start winning elections again.

  5. This quote from Machiavelli’s “The Prince” ch. 20:
    “And since the matter demands it, I must not fail to warn a prince, who by means of secret favours has acquired a new state, that he must well consider the reasons which induced those to favour him who did so; and if it be not a natural affection towards him, but only discontent with their government, then he will only keep them friendly with great trouble and difficulty, for it will be impossible to satisfy them. And weighing well the reasons for this in those examples which can be taken from ancient and modern affairs, we shall find that it is easier for the prince to make friends of those men who were contented under the former government, and are therefore his enemies, than of those who, being discontented with it, were favourable to him and encouraged him to seize it.”

  6. It’s sentences like your last sentences, Mr. Saunders, that suggest hyper-partisanship. It could be easy for the Democrats to govern like the Republicans did and then not govern for much longer. No matter how much the Republicans complain and want more power (political parties always want more power and use any excuse to go for it) the Democrats have to govern competently. If the Democrats want to hold on to their majorities, they have to avoid saying “fuck off” to the Republicans.

  7. I’m absolutely partisan, but I’m not in D.C. As far as I’m concerned, the Democrats should be taking advantage of their strong majorities to get things done. The Dems won’t be in charge forever, so if every period of Republican control is marked by hyperpartisanship and every period of Democratic control is marked by feeble attempts at bipartisanship, then we’re really looking at taking one step forward for ever two steps back. That’s not good enough.

    But, like I mentioned, I’m not in charge. In fact, I haven’t heard any Democrat in Washington exhibit the kind of partisanship that I have. They’ve been bending over backwards to include the Republicans. If THAT isn’t good enough for the GOP then the Dems at some point need to take a step back and say “well, if they’re going to blindly vote against everything we try to do, let’s stop watering down our plans and just pass something that works”. And when they reach that point, they should do so by publicly reminding the American public of the one-party thuggery of the Republican majority. From where I’m sitting, the Democrats have been more conciliatory than the Republicans deserve.

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  9. If the Democrats want to hold on to their majorities, they have to avoid saying “fuck off” to the Republicans.

    Comment by Benjamin A. Schwab — February 6, 2009 @ 12:32 pm
    Yeah, that’ll work. Thanks for the concern. I’m sure guys like you were giving the same speech when Dick Cheney told Pat Leahy to “f*** off” on the floor of the Senate.

  10. I think that, while Obama’s civility and genuine wish for bipartisanship — also known as “governing” — is a breath of fresh air and shows him to be the first grown-up in the White House in decades, it’s the Democratic majority’s due to control the agenda. And if all the Republicans can do is whine their usual “poor me” litany and vote consistently against the President, it can only help the Democrats.

    Eight years of Bush rule followed eight years of Clinton squishiness, which in turn followed 12 years of Reagan/Bush obsession with the rights of the wealthy and privileged. The people have had enough of the arrogance of the right. And their pocketbooks are showing the strain of the legacy of the shopworn Reagan hogwash of “lower taxes on the wealthy, cut spending.”

    Hey GOP: We won, you lost, get over it and get with the program, or become the most quickly irrelevant major political party in history.

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