Washington Watch: GOP promises Hillary more gridlock

Many Republicans expect Clinton to be the next president. Their advice to fellow party members is essentially do nothing, oppose everything and blame her for the stalemate.

September 7, 2016 20:59
4 minute read.
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks with supporters during a campaign rally

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks with supporters during a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. (photo credit: REUTERS)

If you liked the past eight years of Republican obstructionism, “gotcha” investigations, filibusters, blocked nominations and attempts to delegitimize a president who isn’t a white male, you’re gonna love the next four years with Hillary Clinton in the White House.

Republican leaders aren’t waiting for the election returns to begin planning to give Clinton the Obama treatment.

On the day Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, Republican congressional leaders met to formulate a strategy to block the new president’s legislative agenda every step of the way, according to Robert Draper’s Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.

Without waiting for her inauguration, the anti-Hillary campaign is already underway. Just look at a recent Washington Post op-ed by two top Republican figures, Tom Korologos, a former ambassador and presidential adviser, and Richard V. Allen, Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser.

Like many other Republicans they expect Clinton to be the next president. Their advice to fellow party members is essentially do nothing, oppose everything and blame her for the stalemate.

House Republicans should hold “attention-getting hearings... every week on the inevitable missteps in a Clinton administration” while Senate Republicans filibuster and block as many of her 2,000-plus nominations to the courts, the Cabinet, top government jobs and diplomatic posts as they can, they advised.

“Sometimes doing nothing in the Senate is doing something,” they wrote.

Instead of seeking “common ground that solves pressing national problems and does not violate fundamental principles,” said congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, the pair are proposing to “double down” on the obstructionism that has defined the Obama years with delaying tactics and the same old “gotcha” investigations that delegitimize a president and Washington politics.”

That strategy backfired in the 2012 presidential race and it’s likely to again this year, keeping Republicans out of the White House for at least another four years, he noted.

Over in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan has a similar strategy.

As soon as the polls close on November 8 and it becomes clear Clinton will be the next president, Ryan will begin his campaign for president in 2020. Many Republicans, including his 2012 running mate, Mitt Romney, urged him to go for it this year but by the time the GOP establishment woke up to the Trump threat it was too late.

Ryan’s campaign will be conducted in the House of Representatives where he will do all in his power to make sure Clinton’s presidency is a failure.

That will probably mean dozens more futile attempts to repeal Obamacare while eviscerating if not totally killing Clinton’s legislative priorities like paid family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, high minimum wage and lower cost college education. Instead there will attempts to halt funding for Planned Parenthood and put anti-abortion amendments on anything that moves.

Even if he wanted to, it is questionable whether Ryan could do much, with an even more extreme Tea Party faction nipping at his heels.

Democrats are unlikely to pick up enough seats to take control of the House, and those they defeat are most likely to come from swing districts, leaving the hardline alt-right the Freedom Caucus proportionately stronger. Those are the true ideologues who see Ryan as having veered away from the truth faith; look for them to push him to go along with them or face being overthrown as they did his predecessor, John Boehner.

It is the role of the loyal opposition not simply to oppose but also to help govern. That is what Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) promised but never delivered.

His admitted mission has been to make Obama a failed, one-term president. He never stopped trying and you can bet he’s planning the same thing for Clinton.

He said the road back to the White House for the GOP was to show Republicans could govern. That failed, but he succeeded on his specialty, block and stall.

His advantage is that he doesn’t care if nothing gets done, since the goal has been just to blame the gridlock on the White House.

That meant generating hostility toward the federal government, which, of course, is headed by the president, not the Congress. And it worked in the 2010 and 2014 off-year elections, giving Republicans big victories and control of both chambers.

They are in danger of losing some or all of that control this year. Whether McConnell is leader of the majority or the minority next year, count on him to retain his reputation as a “strict obstructionist.”

Clinton will have one big advantage over Obama when it comes to dealing with the Senate. The president saw his time there as a stepping-stone to the White House (as have many others) and was never one of the Senate. As president he has been rightly faulted for not devoting enough attention to lawmakers.

Clinton, on the other hand, was a member of the club during her eight years there.

She established a reputation for working well across the aisle and doing her homework on the issues and Senate rules. She kept a low public profile, regularly attended the Senate Prayer Breakfast, served on five committees and was instrumental in getting federal recovery assistance for New York and for first responders following the September 11 attacks.

She will need all that experience to deal with Senate regardless of the party in control. But will it be enough to sway an opposition that would rather investigate and obstruct than legislate?

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