Chances for the partisan gridlock in Washington to get even worse next year
improved last week with the victory in Texas of the Tea Party-backed candidate
for the Republican Senate nomination.
Ted Cruz, heavily favored in
November to win the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,
said he isn’t going to Washington to compromise with the Democrats. That synchs
with Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who declared his approach
will be “confrontation” and not “working with the other side,” and
bipartisanship means Democrats must support Republican measures.
the theme of the Tea Party movement, whose unofficial leader in the Senate is
Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He expects Cruz to strengthen hardline
conservative ranks in the Republican caucus when he joins like-minded senators
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of
At least a third of the GOP candidates in 18 contested Senate
races this year have Tea Party backing, which was instrumental in giving
Republicans control of the House two years ago, driving it even farther to the
As their ranks grow it is possible Tea Partiers will challenge
Sen. Mitch McConnell for leadership, either directly by taking away his job or,
as they did to Speaker John Boehner in the House, by forcing him to follow their
The 112th Congress, currently on an extended recess to campaign for
an undeserved reelection, has been one of the most unproductive in history
thanks to a Republican party that puts extremist ideology ahead of the national
interest and a confused, ineffective Democratic caucus.
GRIDLOCK HAS been
exacerbated by a Democratic president reluctant to use his vaunted skills as a
communicator and the power of his bully pulpit to effectively advocate for
traditional Democratic positions.
A freshman Republican Congressman,
Richard Hanna of New York, last week excoriated his colleagues as “incapable of
governing” and said Democrats have “less anger” than Republicans toward the
other side, Politico reported.
“We render ourselves incapable of
governing when all we do is take severe sides. I have to say that I’m frustrated
by how much we – I mean the Republican Party – are willing to give deferential
treatment to our extremes in this moment in history,” he told the Syracuse
Post-Standard editorial board.
Five-term Ohio Republican Steve
LaTourette, one of the vanishing breed of moderate Republicans, unexpectedly
announced his retirement last week, blaming “the current” climate of deadlock
and rancor in Washington.
Just before the 2010 by-election, Senate
Republican Leader McConnell told the National Journal
“the single most important
thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term
He wasn’t just talking about the opposition party working to
defeat its rivals. His spokesman explained that McConnell’s top goal was
blocking Obama’s policies.
Obstruction, not compromise, has been the aim
and the result – even when it meant preventing passing legislation that had the
support of Republican voters.
A CNN poll last year showed that while
clear majorities of Republicans support some Obama proposals – raising taxes on
millionaires, cutting payroll taxes for all workers, providing federal aid to
states to hire teachers and first responders – they want them to fail because
they are Obama’s.
Harry Truman ran in 1948 against the “Do Nothing
Congress.” This one might be called the “Just Say No” Congress. Republicans have
repeatedly used the filibuster to block Obama’s policies and nominees, even when
they had bipartisan support. Last month they blocked the nomination of Robert
Bacharach, a noncontroversial Oklahoma judge; even his state’s two Republican
senators, who had backed him, voted to block rather than give Obama a win. The
vote was 56- 34 in support, four shy of breaking the GOP filibuster.
their unprecedented use of the filibuster, Republicans have forced Democrats to
get a super majority for any measure they want to pass in the narrowly divided
chamber. The result is Democrats are less inclined to compromise, and little
That presents Republicans with a dilemma of their own
creation. By making sure Obama got nothing, they produced nothing themselves and
now face angry and disappointed voters who rate this as probably the worst
Congress in history.
AND IT will only get worse. Not only because of
uncompromising ultra-conservatives like DeMint and his followers but because the
next Congress is very likely to be narrowly divided no matter which party
controls the two chambers; and whichever man wins the White House in November,
the other party will see the 113th Congress as payback time.
wins a second term, look for Republicans, whether in the minority or majority,
to continue working to prevent him from achieving his goals. And if Mitt Romney
is victorious, it will be payback time for the Democrats when his appointments
and agenda go to Capitol Hill.
The Senate will once again be the
graveyard for legislation and nominations unless leaders of both parties get
together and fix some of their obstructionist rules – particularly the
filibuster and secret holds – to make sure the next president, no matter who he
is, can govern.©2012 Douglas M. Bloomfield email@example.com