You hear it – and read it – all the time. Congress is doing a lousy job. Its approval rating is the lowest in history, down in the mid-teens. Disapproval is up to 75 per cent. Television commentators smirk and shake their heads and sneer at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, blaming them for a “do-nothing” record.
What they usually neglect to mention is that the Democratic majority in Congress has been unable to pass legislation because of Republican filibusters in the Senate and George Bush’s presidential veto.
With Democrats clinging to a 51-49 advantage (including that turn-coat, Joe Lieberman) and Bush stubbornly wielding his veto pen, the Senate has become the place where legislation goes to die. The way the system works, a minority of 41 in the 100-member Senate can block legislation before it even gets to the president. And since the Democrats narrowly won the Senate two years ago, Republicans have used the filibuster a record number of times. Just in the past session, there were 92 (Republican) filibusters.
If Barack Obama wins the White House, the filibuster would be the last obstructionist weapon left to the Republicans. That’s why the party is desperately trying to keep Democrats from gaining 60 Senate seats in Tuesday’s elections. A filibuster-proof Senate would make real change possible, and that is the thing Republicans fear most.
They’ve had it pretty good these past eight years – and even in the past two years since the nation voted out the Republican majorities in the House and Senate. With Bush in the White House and filibusters in the Senate, Republicans have been able to undermine civil rights and Constitutional freedoms, erode social programs, whittle away at environmental protections and drag out an endless, pointless and ruinous war in Iraq.
I’m sure you know how important it is to keep John McCain out of the White House. But that is not enough. It is also vital that we elect Democratic senators. If Democrats fail to attain that 60-seat majority, the programs that Obama proposes will be sabotaged by filibusters. We cannot allow that to happen.