Earlier this week, every single Senate Republican released a letter indicating that they would block all Senate business until the wealthiest Americans receive additional tax cuts:
[W]e write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.
Almost immediately, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded to the GOP’s obstruction on the Senate floor. “With this letter, they have simply put in writing the political strategy that the Republicans pursued this entire Congress: Namely, obstruct, delay action on critical matters, and then blame the Democrats for not addressing the needs of American people,” he said. And Reid is right. The sole reason why the Senate does not have enough time to complete the many pressing matters it still faces is because Republicans spent the last two years slowing Senate business to a near standstill.
GOPers claim that their most recent gambit is motivated by concern over the economy, but they don’t even attempt to defend their decision to block confirmation of one of the nation’s most important economic policy makers — Nobel Prize winner and Federal Reserve Board nominee Peter Diamond. Simply put, giving one of the world’s leading economists an opportunity to shape U.S. monetary policy would do a whole lot more to benefit the economy than giving yet another tax cut to Paris Hilton.
Similarly, it’s been more than two months since the Senate has held a single judicial confirmation vote, even though 34 nominees have already cleared the Judiciary Committee, 26 of them unanimously. Indeed, President Obama’s judges have been confirmed slower than any president’s in recent memory — and at less than half the rate of President Bush’s nominees. On the legislative side, the picture is just as bleak. Nearly 400 bills which passed the House of Representatives — many of them unanimously — have yet to even receive a vote in the Senate.
Republicans were able to create this logjam because the Senate rules enable them to force up to 30 hours of pointless delay before the Senate can vote on nearly anything. Thirty hours may not sound like a lot, but it is utterly crippling when multiplied across the hundreds of votes the Senate must take just to keep the country running. Indeed, at 30 hours per nominee, it would take more than two entire presidential terms to fill all the Senate-confirmed jobs a new president must fill, and that’s assuming that the Senate gets nothing else done during this entire nine year period:
The good news is that a brief window opens up next month which will allow the Senate to amend its rules with only 51 votes. Sadly, however, next year’s battleground is likely to shift to the House, where GOPer’s are already threatening to take the entire U.S. economy hostage if the nation does not agree to an as-yet unspecified list of demands.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell clarified after this letter was released that its terms “only appl[y] to legislation, and not to nominations.”