Americans complain about the federal government’s failure to restore the economy, and they largely place the blame on the Democrats because they are in power. But while the Democrats have their share of culpability, the Republicans have earned their title as the “Party of No.”
Ironically, the party whose members claim unwavering dedication to the original spirit of the Constitution has relied upon a parliamentary maneuver that was not part of the Framers plan and used it to obstruct the process of government. The filibuster, which did not exist at all until 1837 and did not require a super-majority to break before 1917, has become a prominent feature of the obstructionist Republican minority.
The filibuster was used sparingly up until 1970. Between 1919 and 1960 there had been only 27 filings of cloture (motion to end a filibuster). But in recent times it has grown in popularity, with the Republican minority of the past two congresses setting all-time records. Prior to the 110th Congress (2007-08), the Democratic minority had held the record with 68 filings in 2005-06. The last two Republican minorities eclipsed that total by stopping the wheels of government 139 times in 2007-08 and already 118 times in the current Congress.
This is obstructionism, plain and simple. Our democracy is based on political deliberation and debate that culminates in a vote, and the Republicans have strived to stop this process from occurring. They have essentially fought to block anything and everything the Democrats have proposed and offered nothing in the way of alternatives. So egregious is their barricade of democracy that they have no defense against charges of deliberate sabotage at the expense of American citizens.
The Republicans blocked healthcare, and they stood in opposition to Wall Street reform. They opposed job aid to the states, and they fought against extending unemployment benefits. They filibustered small business stimulus and attempted to stop the closing of loopholes to disrupt the offshoring of jobs. The Republicans have even repeatedly resorted to filibustering President Obama’s appointments, adding greatly to their excessive number of holds, which have led to fewer than half of the President’s judicial appointments being confirmed. The inescapable truth is that the party that wants people to believe that government is ineffective has done everything within their power to make it so.
Yet as counterproductive as this “just say no” tactic has been inside the Congress, the distortion and spin so prevalent in the media has been even more destructive. Witness the Stimulus: routinely portrayed as an abysmal failure by Republicans, non-partisan experts credit it with adding as much as 4.5% to the GDP and trimming 2 full percentage points from unemployment. In fact, as stated by economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s, it just happens that the month the NBER identified as the end of the recession was the month in which Stimulus spending was at it’s maximum.
Interestingly, it was also June of 2009 when former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich told the crowd at a Republican fundraising event that the Stimulus had “already failed.” His claim was obviously untrue, but when the objective is strictly confined to discrediting the opposing party, regardless of the costs to the American people, the rules of honesty and common decency have no bearing. From Sarah Palin to John Boehner, Mitch McConnell to John McCain, the Republicans have set aside any semblance of sincerity in order to mask their commitment to the wealthy and regain power on the backs of a struggling middle class.