The Campaign for America's Future released an in-depth study today about the unprecedented obstructionism of the current congress that would, in a sane world, make the media start writing a different storyline:
WASHINGTON—The Republican Senate minority today filibustered an omnibus budget bill, setting a modern-day record for blocking the most legislation during a congressional session. A new report released today by the Campaign for America's Future details the 62 times conservatives have used the filibuster to block legislation (or force modification of bills) in the first session of the 110th Congress. In just the first year of this two-year Congress, their use of the filibuster in the Senate topped the previous record, reached during the entire 107th Congress.
The new report outlines every bill filibustered, vetoed or threatened to be vetoed by President Bush. Conservatives filibustered bills to end the occupation of Iraq, provide soldiers in Iraq rest time equal to their deployments, support renewable energy and grant residents of the District of Columbia representation in Congress. Today's record-breaker involved a $516 billion budget package passed by the House to fund the federal government in 2008. The conservative minority demanded $20 billion additional funding for the war and opposed House language to bring troops home, and threatened a filibuster to prevent the bill from getting an up or down vote.
"In just one session, a minority in Congress has prevented a mind-blowing 62 pieces of legislation from going to the floor for an up or down vote," said Campaign for America's Future co-director Roger Hickey. "Our report shows how over and over again, the uncompromising minority has thwarted the will of majorities in Congress and of the American people, holding the Senate floor hostage to a radical right-wing agenda."
Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture and end a filibuster. The 62nd cloture vote of the session is more than any single session of Congress since at least 1973, the earliest year cloture votes are available online from the Senate. Republicans are on pace to force 134 cloture votes to cut off a filibuster, according to the Campaign for America's Future analysis, more than double the historical average of the last 35 years.
Eric Lotke, Campaign for America's Future research director and lead author of the new report, calls the obstruction a "deliberate strategy." He observes that the congressional Republicans block legislation, then blame the Democrats for getting nothing done. "It's like mugging the postman and then complaining that the mail isn't delivered on time."
(Emphasis is mine.)
What's stunning to me, speaking as a historian, is how something epochally different has begun happening in American politics, not in secret but in plain sight—they've been bragging about it for months!—and the media deigns not to notice.Well, it would require them to question the prevailing conventional wisdom and explain complicated matters to their readers and viewers. They don't see that as their job, which is to entertain the Village. This story just isn't sexy or easy.
Right now the press is confused so they are just pulling old story lines off the shelf and squeezing current events into them. The fact that they bear no relationship to what's actually going on -- or are trivial distractions at a time when real and interesting political events are being ignored--has no bearing on anything. Kewl Kidz just want to have fun. This story isn't fun. And that's the problem.
If the shoe were on the other foot the Republicans would be staging wildly entertaining daily hissy fits featuring howling denunciations of the Democrats with such patented whines as "these are not good people." The press would be covering this as a terrible political loss for the Democrats who are failing to heed the will of the voters. But that is not to say the same thing would work for the Dems. If they behaved similarly, the line would be that only pathetic whiners complain about not being able to get the job done --- real men never complain, never explain, they just Do It. Clearly, the Democrats are weak and feminine. America doesn't like losers.
See how that works? The Republicans can call for the smelling salts over and over again, tremulously appearing before the cameras to protest the horror of some liberal group using "political hate speech" or failing to acknowledge that "elections have consequences" and the press immediately jumps on the bandwagon decrying the terrible degradation of our political discourse. Democrats do the same thing and they are accused of whining.
So, something like this record number of filibusters is seen as a sign that the prevailing Village wisdom still applies: Republicans are still stronger, better and more successful. They are getting the job done, which, by strict partisan measures, they are. The press respects Republicans when they do this.
These story lines must be changed, and it isn't easy. They are nearly hardwired at this point. The village is an insular little place and political reporters are obviously in an endless feedback loop of musty old conventions and tired knee jerk assumptions. (Just spend a day watching the cable gasbags blathering with campaign reporters and each other for hours on end if you don't believe me.)
I would love to see this filibuster story get some traction. It's quite amazing and the fine folks at CAF did a great job in compiling all the pertinent info. It will be an important historical document. But unless somebody can wrap it in a sexy story featuring Bill Clinton and Oprah surging somewhere into something, it's unlikely it's going to catch. The DC media just don't know how to think about something so confusing as Republicans thwarting the will of the people and blaming the other side for it.
Right now on CNN, the entirely corrupt GOP is being successfully portrayed as standing in the way of the usual Democratic pork and reckless spending. That's an approved storyline the Village media understands.
Update: I have removed the image of the stomping elephant. However, you can find it here at RoadblockRepublicans.com, along with many other interesting bits of information regarding the obstructionist GOP.