Mon 29 Nov, 2010 04:41 pm
Just as it did in 1995, maybe this will bring the voting public to its senses.
Prelude to a Shutdown
The 112th Congress has not even been seated yet, but its GOP Members are already salivating over the government shutdown they plan to force next year . Make no mistake, the Republican Party's impending shutdown will have catastrophic consequences for American workers and the U.S. economy, but it is nothing more than an escalation of the GOP's most recent tactics. During the 111th Congress, Republicans lacked the majorities to force a shutdown, but the Senate's arcane rules gave them all the power they needed to hollow out the executive and judicial branches of government . Indeed, in many ways the shutdown began the moment President Obama took office, and GOP senators figured out they could keep virtually any Senate-confirmed job open as long as they saw fit.
AN EMPTY BENCH: No one has felt the force of this obstructionism harder than the federal judiciary and the millions of Americans who depend upon it for fair and timely justice. It's been more than two months since the Senate has held a single judicial confirmation vote, and more than half of Obama's judicial nominees -- 44 in all -- have yet to even receive a vote in the Senate. This includes 23 nominees who have already cleared the Judiciary Committee -- 17 of them unanimously. Moreover, more than half of these vacancies have been declared "judicial emergencies" by the non-partisan agency responsible for monitoring judicial caseloads. And the GOP's efforts to keep even the most uncontroversial nominees from receiving a vote stands in stark contrast to the treatment afforded to President Bush's judges. According to data supplied by the Federal Judicial Center, Obama's 41 confirmed judges is less than half of the 99 judges confirmed at this point in Bush's presidency. Indeed, Senate Democrats confirmed 20 judges during Bush's first lame duck period alone. The GOP's unprecedented obstruction of Obama's judges has drastic consequences for Americans seeking justice. Presently, the average civil litigant must wait nearly two years for a full trial of his or her case to be resolved, and this wait will only grow as more judges retire. Just as tragically, GOP obstruction of Obama's judges preserves the far right's stranglehold over the judiciary -- ensuring more decisions halting scientific progress, more mo rally re pulsive rulings such as a Fifth Circuit decision requiring an alleged rape victim to cheer for her rapist , and more right-wing judges attending industry-funded junkets to learn how to rule in favor of big business.
AXES TO GRIND: Threatening a government shutdown is ultimately an act of extortion. In 1995, Newt Gingrich held millions of Americans' Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits hostage, refusing to free these prisoners unless President Clinton accepted draconian cuts to Medicare and education. Fifteen years later, some Republicans are prepared to cut off all government benefits until the Affordable Care Act is repealed . But conservative senators engaged in similar hostage-taking with Obama's nominees from the moment he took office. Earlier this year, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) placed a hold on more than 70 nominees in an attempt to force the federal government to award a $35 billion defense contract to Northrop Grumman. Sens. Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) filibustered Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes because they believed the Obama Administration was not sufficiently deferential to the oil and gas industries. Even pro-corporate Democrats have gotten into this game -- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) held Obama's budget director hostage for two crucial months during the budget drafting season in order to extract concessions for Big Oil. And these are just a handful of the exceptional nominees held up by conservatives with an ax to grind.
THE WAY FORWARD: The GOP's kneejerk opposition to anything Obama supports has gotten so severe that many Republican statesmen have warned of its consequences for America's security and prosperity. Former GOP senator John Danforth warned that his party is "beyond redemption" if its primary voters seriously challenge Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) for the crime of agreeing with Democrats that nuclear weapons should be controlled . Seven Republican-appointed federal judges recently joined a letter pushing GOP senators to stop slowly shutting down the federal judiciary . Senator-elect Dan Coats (R-IN), who also served in the Senate during the 1990s, even endorsed a modest form of filibuster reform to ensure that every issue is fairly debated on the Senate floor. Yet anyone who thinks that these urgings from GOP elder statesmen will make a real difference hasn't been paying attention for the last two years. Indeed, under the Senate's arcane rules, just one single senator has the power to virtually shut down the entire legislative body. Nevertheless, while Obama lacks the power to give his judicial nominees a lifetime appointment without finding a way around Senate obstructionism, he is hardly without power in preventing the GOP from hollowing out his executive branch. Simply put, the President has all the evidence he needs to understand that the GOP will never be an honest bargaining partner, so it is Obama's own fault if conservatives continue to hollow out the executive branch because the President uses his recess power too sparingly.
If it happens, it will be this year, and done by a bunch of dying duck legislators who didn't get reelected. You might keep that in mind over the next couple of days.
I don't think they are waiting around for next year; at least on the Senate side. They have passed around a letter to be signed by republicans of a just say no to everything except tax cuts and government spending which would include important bills like the nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
Senate Republicans Plan To Block Virtually All Democratic-Backed Bills