Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Man up, Senate Republicans
On your right
Memo to US Senate Republicans: Wake up, stand up and get in the game. You were given power in an election that brought a historic shift in the Senate, based on big talk and bold, if nebulous, plans. Your supporters took you at your word because they didn’t like the direction the country and its politics had taken for the past six years and you promised to change that. Now it’s time to start.
This means you, Majority Leader McConnell. This means you, Senator McCain. And the rest of your clones in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
The first test of Republican resolve was not the Keystone pipeline. Warren Buffett and Tom Steyer had already bought enough Democrats to ensure that Canadian tar sand oil would be shipped using their railroad and pipeline, so even if Keystone perishes, the stuff will still flow to market. And if Canada makes more, they can always export it to waiting markets in India and China where environmental controls on its use are much better than ours. So, no. This was always about Democrats appearing to pay off their radical environmental base without interfering with the profits of some of their largest donors.
The real test is illegal immigration and the Democrats’ offer of creeping amnesty to scofflaws. The first step was the president’s “pen and phone” strategy, providing “deferred deportation” to about five million illegal immigrants, coupled with an authorization to allow most of them to collect federal benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Earned Income Tax Credit, the last including payments of arrearages up to $24,000. Actuaries suggest these new regulations might boost overall payouts by about 10 percent. To forestall this and other examples of what Democrats have termed “the Imperial Presidency” when Republicans occupied the office, newly-elected Republican majorities in the House and Senate proposed to write constraints into legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security – a perfectly legitimate use of the power of the purse. Said bill easily passed the House but is stalled in the Senate by a filibuster organized by Democrats desperate to save the president from one of two species of political defeat: accepting reversal of his questionable policy or stubbornly insisting that the DHS continue to work without funds.
Senate Democrats are assisted in their mulish resistance by the Senate Republican leader and several of his colleagues who, as recently as last Thursday decided that the real problem was house Republicans who, they scolded, “must come up with a bill senate Democrats can support.”
Senators McConnell, McCain, Collins, Specter, Voinovich, et. alia. should instead take a page from Colorado’s Senate majority. These folks take the voice of their electors seriously and act accordingly: in de-funding Governor Hickenlooper’s program to award driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants they put the interest of the law, of Colorado and of the nation ahead of the cheap truckling and favor-currying so often engaged in by their opponents. They will be called anti-immigrant and anti-Latino, when all they oppose is illegality and all they favor is respect for national borders and sovereignty. They stood up; federal Senators should do the same, immediately.
There are alternatives to end “gridlock” – most of them recently used by Senate Democrats. How about Harry Reid’s “Nuclear Option?” If the former Democrat majority thought it appropriate and not a little cute to change filibuster rules back in November, 2013 so they could ram through controversial nominees, perhaps the new Republican majority should remind them why such changes ought not be made lightly. Or they could use the former’s majority’s tactic of “reconciliation,” which brought us Obamacare. They could also simply stand still and loudly blame the Senate’s Democrat minority when DHS runs out of money. Democrats are responsible for the impending shutdown after all — so let them shoulder the blame for a change.
It’s doubtful any of this will happen. Senate Republicans are too timid for real pushback, too enamoured of their new positions and too fearful of criticism if they are not “bipartisan,” which seems to mean “give the Democrats all they desire.” From the top down, they imagine they are in a genteel discussion; their opponents seem inspired instead by the historical example of South Carolina’s Preston Brooks, who let his cane do his objecting to remarks by Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. There are predictable winners and losers in that sort of contest.
So stop carping, Senator McConnell. This is the job you wanted, these are the goals you embraced. Stop demanding that your colleagues in the House do the job you said you were going to do; start fulfilling your promises to the electorate. Or prepare for ceaseless repetition of the uncomfortable question “why should we believe you this time?”
Morgan Liddick writes a column for the Summit Daily.
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