Naked Power Grab?

Never let it be said that Richard Cohen is the only horrible writer from the Washington Post’s Opinion pages. Out pours the font of wrongheaded albeit conventional wisdom from Dana Millbank to muddy up the waters regarding the recent change in Senate rules about the filibustering of Presidential nominees.

The problems start immediately with this opinion piece with the title. “Naked Power Grab” makes it sound like the Democrats just seized control of the Legislature based on a craven need for power. That title is bereft of all context. Worse yet, it gives the impression that the Republican members of the Senate are somehow unjustly harmed or put at risk by this move — as though they have been good-faith actors since President Obama was sworn into office.

This has never been the case. There are too many instances to name but let’s start off with the secret meeting Republican lawmakers had on the day of President Obama’s election where they vowed to do anything and everything to submarine his presidency, and ended with the Senate Minority Leader stating quite clearly that his primary goal was to make sure President Obama was a one-term President. This from the party whose 2008 election slogan was “Country First.” But why give further context to a click-bait title when the writer seems to be purposefully missing the point?  He begins:

Certainly, Republicans have abused the dilatory tactics that Senate minorities have, for centuries, used with greater responsibility; they seem intent on bringing government to a halt. And the Senate in 2013 is hardly a healthy institution. Yet it has achieved far more than the House — passing bipartisan immigration legislation and a farm bill and working out deals to avoid default and to end the federal government shutdown— largely because, until Thursday, Senate rules required the majority party to win votes from the minority.

So despite the “power grab” Mr. Millbank admits that the Republicans have abused the filibuster to levels not before seen in history and that the only thing they want to do is bring government to a halt. Wouldn’t those two things be the actual power grab on the part of the minority party? No, no. That’s much too logical for the opinion pages of the Washington Post. Secondly, the bills he’s trumpeted as proof of how the Senate is oh-so-functional leave a lot to be desired. Let’s go in reverse order: Ending the government shutdown: You mean the one that they started in order to defund Obamacare? Color me impressed. Deals to avoid default: We aren’t supposed to default on the nation’s credit. So a deal to avoid default seems rather pathetic. The Farm Bill: That would be the least controversial bill imaginable. Talk about setting the bar low. And finally, Immigration reform: Oh right, that would be the thing that the vast majority of Americans support in poll after poll? Even in Republican districts. Only in the beltway media could Republicans voting yes to something that three-quarters of their own constituents actually want be considered a profile in courage. What’s next, pats on the back for votes in favor of ice-cream and puppies? But hey since the House of Representatives is even more dysfunctional, the Senate must seem amazing to members of the Beltway Bubble.

The most annoying part of this entire article isn’t that it doesn’t contain any context. It’s the fact that it does. He simply acknowledges the facts and then breezes past them all for the sake of his story, which basically amounts to a hit-piece. Mr. Millbank continues:

Reid was right that Republican obstruction has been intolerable; half of the 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations in the nation’s history, he noted, have come during the Obama presidency.

The filibuster used to be a rare occurrence. Something that the minority party only used in extreme circumstances. Now it’s become commonplace. So much so that even Mr. Millbank admits that the current Republican party has been uniquely at fault when it comes to filibuster abuse. In our nation’s 237-year history there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. And half of those have happened during the last five years! But rather than calling out the Republicans obstinacy he blames the Democrats trying to get government to actually work. What a world we live in where Republicans will routinely vow to block appointments not based on the nominees qualifications but because…well why not? It’s not like the press holds them to account. Sometimes it’s because they don’t believe in the Consumer Protection Bureau or numerous other parts of government. Other times it just seems to be animus towards the President. Most recently Benghazi was the fig leaf designed to obscure their obstruction. There’s always some made up reason for the sabotage. This is apparently A-OK with Dana Millbank because it’s the Democrats who’ve changed the rules.

Let’s take a look at the scoreboard. The Republicans in the Senate have abused the filibuster to levels never seen before in history. They’ve used their minority powers to stop debates from ever happening on executive and judicial nominations. These objections are not based on a nominees qualifications but to stymie the President’s agenda and legacy. After five years of this continual and well documented nonsense, which has never been a secret, the Democrats have finally had enough and have changed the Senate rules to allow up or down votes on the nominees.  Add it all up and what does the Dana Millbank from Washington Post give us? “If it was possible to make things even worse in Washington, Reid just did it.”

Sounds legit.

I’m not sure why everything in Washington is predicated on Republicans not getting their fe-fes hurt. Or why when the Democrats actually fight back, we see article after article about how they’ve ruined the Legislature forever. (Thanks New York Times). Remember all of those stories questioning whether the President had been cordial enough to the opposition? Most of us don’t have the pleasure of making six-figure salaries with ridiculous benefits packages that these Senators receive. Despite this they still need to be charmed into doing their jobs. Since not doing their jobs as has become the norm as of late, here’s a list of all 76 current nominations that were being held up by filibuster. Numerous others have withdrawn their names from consideration over the years because of this obstruction. Advise and consent doesn’t mean refusing to debate candidates on their merits. Nor does it mean dragging out the process so long that candidates just give up. Here’s a radical thought: Perhaps government would work better if the elected officials tried to make it so.

As for Dana Millbank, he wouldn’t know a naked power grab if he was in the middle of a Roman orgy.

Categories: Politics Fix

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