Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tactical Obstructionism

A couple of weeks ago, the Senate's passing of both the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal and the START treaty ratification was in serious doubt. Simply lining up 60 votes in favor of cloture, to allow a vote on both propsals, seemed a Herculean task whose outcome was by no means assured. And yet, in the past two days both measures made it through the Senate. The former by a vote of 65 to 31 and the latter by a vote of 72 to 26.

So why, in the end, was it so difficult to acheive cloture on bills that received overwhelming support in the senate (far more votes than the cloture battle would suggest)?

My interpretation (and this goes especially for the START treaty vote) is that the GOP is playing a game whereby they intend to make the president expend as much time, effort and political capital as possible to pass any legislation at all, even legislation that the GOP supports and that a good number of Republicans fully intend to vote for when it does come to the floor.

Is this a winning strategy or will it ultimately cost the GOP what little goodwill they have from the American people? I think it still remains to be seen. I do believe that the GOP is playing with fire, though, and may well get burned. After all, I suspect that the impression of the GOP that the American public is going to come away with from these last few weeks of the so-called "lame duck" session is this: the GOP is the party that simultaneously backed Obama into a corner and forced him to agree to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and then turned around and argued that we can't afford to provide needed health care for the policemen, firefighters, paramedics and ordinary citizens whose long-term health was compromised when they rushed to the scene of the 9/11 attacks and dug through dusty rubble and breathed in toxic air to rescue survivors.

I've got a pretty strong feeling that the same conservative pundits who loudly crow about congress' low approval numbers will prove notably silent on this issue in the coming months as an obstructionist Republican House of Representatives gains the ire and contempt of the very same people who voted them in, frustrated as they were by the glacial pace of our current economic recovery.

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