Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Progress Report:


Unprecedented Obstructionism

Last week in the Senate, conservatives denied the will of the American people by filibustering a measure to end the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, such obstructionism has become a hallmark of this new Congress. In the first seven months of the 110th Congress, conservatives have acted to obstruct legislation at a rate greater than in any previous Congress. While the House has successfully acted on a number of pressing issues, conservatives in the Senate have blocked legislation via filibuster 42 times, embracing a tactic they once threatened to eliminate. In the few instances where Congress has been able to overcome the politically-motivated obstruction, President Bush -- who demanded in January that Congress not "play politics as usual" -- has used the 110th Congress to score political points by vetoing legislation backed by the majority of the American people. Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) boasted recently, "The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail...and so far it's working."

PROGRESS IN THE HOUSE: Since Nov. 2006, the House successfully passed several key pieces of legislation. In fact, in the first 100 hours, the House acted to expand embryonic stem cell research, increase the minimum wage, allow the government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, cut interest rates on student loans, end subsidies for big oil, and enact the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations -- all of which are supported by a majority of the Americans. In addition, on two occasions, the House has passed binding measures to end the war in Iraq, a measure supported overwhelmingly by both the American people and the troops on the ground. Even with such progress, House conservatives are still doing their part to obstruct legislation, often using a legislative device known as a "motion to recommit." A common tactic in the 110th Congress, "[t]he strategy is to institute a divisive change to the bill at the last moment, often unrelated to the original intent of the legislation, hoping that the altered bill can then be defeated on final passage."

OBSTRUCTION IN THE SENATE: Despite such progress in the House, a group of right-wing senators have acted to obstruct "almost every bill that has come before the Senate -- even ones with wide bipartisan support." Of the six major pieces of legislation passed by the House in the first 100 hours, "only one has become law" -- primarily due to conservative obstructionism in the Senate, a tactic that Weekly Standard Editor Fred Barnes touts as a success. On legislation related to such issues as reforming Medicare, raising the minimum wage, reforming union formation, and ending the war in Iraq, conservatives have obstructed progresssupermajority of 60 votes to end debate and vote on the bill itself. Without the votes to overcome such a filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is frequently forced to withdraw bills from consideration, often in spite of the fact that the majority of the Senate and the House support the measures. Conservatives have used such "petty" and divisive tactics again and again. According to McClatchy, Senate conservatives "are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before." Just seven months into the 110th Congress's two-year term, legislation in the Senate has been slowed or blocked completely by conservative filibusters a total of 42 times amounting to "[n]early 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year." If the current pace continues, by Jan. 2009, conservatives in the Senate will have attempted to filibuster more than 150 times -- nearly three times more than any Congress in the last 50 years. In comparison, legislation was delayed or blocked by filibuster only 52 times in the whole 109th Congress. by forcing bills to garner a

VETOES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE: In a "streak unmatched in modern American history," Bush refused to veto a single piece of legislation in the first five years of his presidency. Since Nov. 2006, when conservatives were forced into the minority, the President has executed what conservative columnist Robert Novak has termed a "veto offensive." With just 18 months left in his presidency, Bush has used the Congress time after time to score political points. This year alone, the President vetoed a measure that would have ended the war in Iraq and legislation that would have repealed current "restrictions on human embryonic stem cell experiments." Both proposals enjoyed broad support from the American people. Progress is further endangered by over 30 other veto threats. So committed is Bush to the politics of the radical right, he has even threatened to veto the highly popular and bipartisan renewal and expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which would provide health care for up to nine million uninsured children. But Bush's veto spree may be reaching its limits. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a reliable Bush ally, predicted, "[T]here is a reasonable chance [the President's veto would] be overridden."

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