By Ryan McNeely
Yesterday, Republican Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) was apparently “livid” on Capitol Hill, speaking with reporters while Democrats met to discuss their next step towards getting an energy bill through the Senate. Voinovich complained that since, in his opinion, there’s virtually no chance of passing such a bill before the November elections, even having the meeting at all was “cynical”:
“Anybody that has been in the Senate for any period of time knows there is no way, no way, that an energy bill is going to get done between now and the election or for that matter between now and the end of this year,” Voinovich told reporters. “This whole thing is very cynical.”
“Give me a break. This is just going through the motions, maybe to satisfy some people in your conference, but don’t kid us about we’re going to come forward with this thing and it’s going to be serious,” Voinovich said. “Anybody that’s being intellectually honest has got to say we do not have the time to do anything meaningful at this time in regards to climate change.”
The first thing to say is that unfortunately Voinovich may be technically correct that there isn’t time to “do anything meaningful” about climate change as the entire Congress gears up for election season. Certainly Senate Democrats could have pursued climate legislation before health care reform and financial regulation, but then one wonders if there would have been time to accomplish those other priorities. But the question is why is there insufficient time to deal with the most important issues facing the country?
The answer is the systematic Republican campaign to object, obstruct, delay, and filibuster every aspect of Senate business. And George Voinovich fully participated in this effort to run out the clock on the 111th Congress. Does George Voinovich believe that tackling climate change is important? If so, he could have declined to join his colleagues in filibustering the unemployment insurance extension over and over and over knowing full well that — eventually — the Democrats would be able replace their deceased caucus member and break the filibuster. Even if Voinovich doesn’t support extending the benefits (something he has voted for in the past), he could have simply declined to filibuster. But instead, Voinovich decided to go “through the motions, maybe to satisfy some people in [his] conference,” and cynically grind the Senate to a halt.