Article first published as Can Republican Obstructionism be Morally Justified? on Technorati.
In 2008, our nation experienced the most devastating blow to the economy in nearly 80 years. When President Obama took office, the country was hemorrhaging nearly 600,000 jobs per month, and instead of helping address the crisis, the Republicans in the Congress united to obstruct any and all actions taken by Democrats. This complete refusal of an entire party to participate in the process of government is without precedent. Is there really any moral justification for self-serving obstructionism?
The only action taken by the Congress that enjoyed widespread Republican support was the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), which was initiated under President Bush and served mostly to save the Wall Street banks and protect the profits of the very wealthy. But once Obama took the helm, regardless of the fact that unemployment was already at 7.6% and climbing, the Republicans, to the person, decided that their chances for reelection and a return to power were better served by blocking or at least stalling any legislation to promote economic recovery.
The Stimulus was the first major effort of the Congress to help middle and working class Americans. With 3.6 million jobs already lost in the recession, the Democrats were quick to assemble some form of relief. The legislation could certainly have been better formed, but instead of offering thoughtful amendment, instead of participating in the process of government they were elected to serve, the Republicans sat on the sidelines and used the media to launch every form of unsubstantiated ridicule and criticism they could muster. Even to this date, and in spite of the widespread acknowledgment of positive impact by economists, Republicans still attack the stimulus without substance.
But this was just the beginning. On and on the story went, with Republicans in both chambers working against anything that might prove beneficial to the average American. With 47 million people not covered with health insurance, the Republicans fought healthcare reform, and arguably prevented a system that could have reduced costs from being implemented. With the financial system that created the collapse of the economy still intact, Republicans fought against legislation to plug the holes and prevent a similar crash from occurring in the future.
Republicans in Congress fought against job aid to the states. They blocked lifting of the cap on liability for BP’s Gulf oil disaster. They obstructed the closing of loopholes to prevent further offshoring of American jobs; they filibustered small business stimulus; they’ve even set records for the blocking of presidential appointments. There really is no doubt that the Republican agenda, as set by the Party leader when President Obama was elected, Rush Limbaugh, is to do everything in their power to ensure that the President fails — no matter what the cost to average Americans.
Without a filibuster, House Republicans have been unable to obstruct at the level of their party brethren in the Senate. As a result of this discrepancy, the current Congress has passed 420 pieces of legislation through the House of Representatives that are presently stalled in a Senate where the Republican minority filibusters anything and everything, just because it can.
The Senate filibuster, which was insightfully omitted from the Constitution by the Founding Fathers for exactly the reasons of obstruction we now see being played out, has only existed in its present form since 1917. But after decades of sparing use, the last two Republican minorities have made the filibuster much more prevalent in the Senate than the vote. The last Republican minority set the all-time record for filibusters at 139, but the present crop wasted no time in trying to keep up. Those 420 blocked bills are the result of 118 filibusters through the middle of September.
Over the course of going on two years of a Democratic Presidency and Congress, the Republicans have found nothing that they could support as a party. They have been the categorical “Party of No,” and have not joined the majority in passing a single piece of major legislation to address the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Things are so bad that the Republican minority even recently blocked defense spending.
The only thing that Republicans have joined together to support since Bush’s TARP is the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. But of course, even this support only materialized in opposition to the Democratic position to extend the cuts for only the middle class.
Republican voters need to ask themselves whether or not they really want to support a party that will fight to protect the rich, that will even promote the falsehood that tax cuts for the rich benefit anyone but the rich. They need to ask themselves if they really want to support a party that will deliberately obstruct the very process of government they are sworn to protect. And most importantly, they need to ask themselves if they can support the utterly immoral tactic taken by Republicans to sit idly by and allow Americans to suffer so that they could improve their chances of regaining political power.