So much for bipartisanship. Farewell to collegiality. Goodbye to cooperation. Last week, Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats showed they were uninterested in any of that. After whining about “gridlock” and calling for “compromise,” the Left wing of the Senate voted in lockstep for single-party government, changing the cloture rules to allow a bare 51-vote majority to end debate on presidential nominees.
This wasn’t about “obstruction.” Honest counting indicates Republicans have blocked eight Obama picks in the past five years; Harry Reid’s use of 82 indicates that he is innumerate, illiterate, or a liar. Or all three. By comparison Democrats blocked 14 of George W Bush’s choices, 2003-08.
Democrats smashed a 50-year-old rule and two centuries of tradition because doubt and fear stalk them. It now seems possible that the Congress will revert to Republican control in the coming year, which would render their Dear Leader’s plans to create a Progressive Utopia on the ruins of a once-prosperous United States even more difficult. So, blinded by Obamania, they are moving quickly to allow our know-nothing president to pack crucially important federal courts and the administrative apparatus of government with Valerie Jarrett clones, by any means necessary.
Colorado’s Senator Mark Udall agreed; an avid fan of most of the president’s schemes, he probably didn’t need persuading. But he does need reminding about what role the Senate was created to play.
As our Republic was assembled, there was much discussion about how to balance the interests of large and small states, and about how to create a government sufficiently representative of the people’s needs and wishes, without being susceptible to the passions of populism or the whims of political fashion. To achieve this balance we created a two-chamber national legislature. The lower house reflected the people; frequent, direct elections insured that it would maintain a popular focus.
The upper chamber was to equally represent the interests of the states, and to be a brake on the impetuousness of the House; in George Washington’s words, “we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” Its mechanisms and traditions insured deliberate and full consideration of any action, forcing compromise on questionable proposals. This is frustrating to those who believe that government exists to “do something,” but it is necessary — because government can do great evil as well as good. And essential when the House passes a bill “to find out what’s in it.”
Progressives, whose vision of government admits no possible harm from officeholders whose intentions are good, have worked to undermine the Senate’s functions for more than a hundred years. Their first victory was the 17th Amendment, calling for the direct, popular election of senators; Harry Reid’s elimination of the minority’s ability to force compromise was the final blow; the Senate is now the House, elected for a longer term.
Since the final step in this process was taken in panic, expect the other shoe to drop soon: if Senate Republicans have the temerity to filibuster any of the president’s favorite ideas, the bare-majority rule will be extended to legislation. A flood of hyper-partisan actions will follow: citizenship for those in the country illegally; economically crippling environmental regulation; social engineering of the transportation and housing sectors; and much more — all of the heart’s desires of the Left rammed through on narrow, party-line majorities, á la Obamacare.
How’s that going, again?
Senate Minority Leader McConnell has said that, if the Republicans regain control of the Senate next year, they will return to the deliberative tradition of the 60-vote cloture rule. Don’t bet on it. Just as the Tea Party was a natural reaction to the Democrat Party’s inflexible, partisan triumphalism in 2009-10, it is unlikely that any Republican majority in the 2015 Senate will be in a mood to help their political opponents: imagine Ted Cruz and Mike Lee as party leaders. Senate Democrats have sown disdain for their colleagues and shown a mulish refusal to compromise. The crop they will reap will not, I fear, be much to their liking. And if a Republican returns to the White House in 2016, the Left may become apoplectic. As Barack Obama got his Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, so a future Republican may have his Clarence Thomas — or even Robert Bork. And Democrats will have only themselves to blame.
Coloradoans concerned about this Democrat power-grab should make their feelings known now, and next November when Senator Udall asks for our votes. Since he seems not to know what his role is, nor that of the institution in which he serves, he should be ignored, not returned to Washington.
To borrow a word from the president, “period.”
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County.