”The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail … and so far it’s working for us.”
— Republican Whip, Senator Trent Lott (Roll Call, 4/18/07)
The 110th Congress has been hard at work. Unfortunately, while Senate Democrats have been working to lead the way, Senate Republicans have been working to stand in the way. Since the beginning of the year, Congressional Republicans have gone to unprecedented lengths to block or delay legislation important to the American people, including: a change of course in Iraq; improvements to the prescription drug program for seniors; implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations; funding for intelligence activities; ethics reform; labor law reform; and a minimum wage increase. Democrats and all Americans call upon Republicans to stop wasting the country’s time with procedural games and political posturing. Americans deserve better, and it’s time – past time – for Republicans to put aside the partisan politics, defy their reputation as the “Grand Obstructionist Party,” and join Democrats in moving America in a new direction.
Republicans have engaged in unprecedented obstructionism. Senate Republicans have delayed almost every piece of legislation in the 110th Congress. By repeatedly threatening to filibuster, the GOP has forced more than 40 cloture votes in the Senate, thereby requiring Democrats to pass legislation, not by a simple majority, but by a super-majority of 60 votes. In the two-year term of the 109th Congress — when Democrats were in the minority — the Senate had only 52 cloture votes. To date, the all-time high for cloture votes in a two-year term is 61; at the current rate, Republicans in the 110th Congress are projected to force 153 cloture votes by the end of 2008, which would be record-breaking obstructionism. (McClatchy Newspaper, “Senate tied in knots by filibusters,” 07/20/07)
Senate Republicans have even delayed the consideration of popular legislation by forcing unnecessary procedural votes. In only seven months, Republicans have forced thirteen cloture votes on motions to proceed – wasting days of the Senate’s time. As a comparison, in the first sessions, or 12 months, of the 108th and 109th Congresses combined, there were only four cloture votes on motions to proceed. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Numbers: 44, 51, 53, 74, 129, 132, 133, 162, 173, 207, 208, 227, and 228)
Senate Republicans have created hurdles for critical legislation, with bipartisan, super-majority support, including:
- S.4,the Improving America’s Security Act of 2007, for which the cloture motion on the motion to proceed was agreed to on a 97 to 0 vote. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 53, 2/27/07) The Senate later passed the measure on a 60 to 38 vote. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 73, 3/13/07)
- H.R.6, the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, for which the cloture motion on the motion to proceed was agreed to on a 91 to 0 vote. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 208, 6/11/07) The Senate later passed the measure on a 65 to 27 vote. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 226, 6/21/07)
- H.R.1495, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, for which the cloture motion on the motion to proceed was agreed to on a 89 to 7 vote. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 162, 5/10/07) The Senate later passed the measure on a 91 to 4 vote. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 170, 5/16/07)
- S.378, the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007, for which the cloture motion on the motion to proceed was agreed to on a 93 to 3 vote. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 133, 4/18/07) The Senate later passed the measure on a 97 to 0 vote. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 135, 4/19/07)
By refusing to cross party lines, Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked votes on measures that are overwhelmingly supported by the American people. Despite earlier promises of bipartisanship, Senate Republicans have used cloture votes, with their 60 vote thresholds, to deny majority rule, vote strictly along party-lines, and reject the will of American people time and time again.
- Republicans said “no” to changing course in Iraq. The Iraq war has cost more than 3,600 American lives; seven times that number have been wounded. Over a half a trillion dollars of taxpayer money has been spent. Last November, the American people issued a mandate to Congress and the President to begin seeking a responsible end to the war. Nevertheless, Republicans have repeatedly blocked every attempt to do so, each time threatening to filibuster votes and block debate on the war. Most recently, Senate Republicans refused to allow an up or down vote on a Democrat-lead, bipartisan-sponsored, amendment that would have required the President to begin reducing the number of U.S. forces in Iraq, transition the mission of remaining troops to train Iraqi forces and fight al-Qaeda, and engage in a diplomatic, political, and economic effort to create and sustain stability in the region. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 252, Motion to Invoke Cloture on S.Amdt.2087rejected 52 – 47 (60 votes required), 7/18/07)
- Republicans said “no” to funding for the intelligence community. Despite the many dangers facing our nation due to terrorism, Senate Republicans denied the country important tools needed to fight the war on terror by refusing to allow a vote on S.372, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. The bill would have funded the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the U.S. government’S.15 intelligence agencies and entities, including the CIA, FBI and NSA. The funds would have been used to combat terrorism, enhance our intelligence-collection capabilities, and strengthen intelligence oversight. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 130, Motion to Invoke Cloture on S.372rejected 41 – 40 (60 votes required), 1/24/07)
- Republicans said “no” to lower drug prices for American seniors. Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have allowed Medicare to use the bargaining power of its 43 million beneficiaries to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. Had it not been blocked by obstructionism that benefits the drug industry, S.3, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007, would have repealed the current law prohibiting these negotiations and would have made Medicare drug plans more accountable and improved the level of information available to seniors about prescription drugs. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 132, Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S.3 rejected 55 – 42 (60 votes required), 4/18/07)
- Republicans, at first, said “no” to a raise for American workers. After ten years of a stagnant federal minimum wage, the American people demanded that Congress raise the wage floor to $7.25/hour. In May, under Democratic leadership, Congress achieved that victory for American families, and the first installment of the raise went into effect on July 24, 2007. (110 Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 181, 5/24/07) Nevertheless, before joining with Democrats to pass this important piece of legislation, Senate Republicans first rejected the motion to invoke cloture on the bill and further delayed the raise for American workers. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 23, Motion to Invoke Cloture on H.R.2, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 rejected 54 – 43 (60 votes required), 1/24/07)
Senate Republicans said “no” to other important priorities of the American people.
- Republicans said “no” to funding for renewable energy. Senate Republicans rejected a bipartisan-sponsored amendment that would have provided tax incentives for developing clean energy, including clean and green power, alternative vehicles and biofuels, and clean coal technologies. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 223, Motion to Invoke Cloture on S.Amdt.1704 rejected 57 -36 (60 votes required), 6/21/07)
- Republicans said “no” to American workers seeking to unionize. Choosing to side with corporations against average workers, Senate Republicans refused to even consider the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 (EFCA). The legislation would have restored workers’ freedom to form unions and collectively bargain by: 1) strengthening penalties for companies that coerce, intimidate, or retaliate against employees during an organizing campaign or during negotiations for a first contract; 2) establishing a timeline for negotiating a first contract that gets employers to the table, and gives the parties the option of mediation and binding arbitration when employers and workers cannot agree on a first contract; and 3) giving employees the choice of selecting a union via majority sign-up over an election. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 227, Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to H.R.800, EFCA, rejected 51 – 48 (60 votes required), 6/26/07)
- Republicans said “no” to safeguarding the integrity of the Justice Department. As anyone who has followed the Senate and House Judiciary Committee hearings knows, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has lost the respect and trust of Congress, many at the Department of Justice, and the American people. Questions have been raised about his role in last year’s firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for alleged political reasons and about the forthrightness of his statements regarding those firings and other Justice Department matters. Other serious concerns involve Mr. Gonzales’s role in: 1) the misuse of National Security Letters by the Federal Bureau Investigation; 2) allowing the National Security Agency to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in conducting domestic warrant-less wiretapping; 3) politicizing the hiring of career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice; and 4) developing the legal framework for the use of torture and the creation of military commissions.
Despite repeated calls for his resignation by members of Congress, including many Republicans, the legal community, including former Justice Department officials, and the American public, Senate Republicans blocked a resolution that would have expressed Congress’s and the American people’s disappointment with the Attorney General and held him accountable for his actions, which have undermined the integrity of the Department of Justice. (110th Congress, Roll Call Vote Number: 207, Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S.J.Res.14, A joint resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and of the American people, rejected 53 – 38 (60 votes required), 6/11/07)
Republicans have also sought to prevent legislation passed in the House and Senate from reaching the President’s desk. Senate Republicans are blocking Congressional leaders from appointing conferees to S.1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, which is the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform bill in a generation. The bill will strengthen internal Senate rules regarding gifts and travel, slow the “revolving door” for former Senators and staff, strengthen lobbyist disclosure laws, safeguard conference reports from “dead of night” provisions, require transparency in earmarks, and ban the pay-to-play K Street Project. Despite these obstructionist tactics — that only serve to delay greater transparency and accountability in Washington — House and Senate Democrats are committed to restoring the American public’s faith in government and are determined pass this landmark legislation.
Senate Republicans only recently lifted their objection to the appointment of conferees to H.R.1, the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commissions Act of 2007 (the Senate version is S.4, the Improving America’s Security Act of 2007.) If signed by the President, the bill will implement the remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which would fill dangerous gaps in homeland security and more effectively guard against terrorists threats.
Far from being a “unite-er,” President Bush has become the Obstructionist-in-Chief. After having refused to veto a single piece of legislation during the first five years of his Presidency and promising to foster the spirit of bipartisanship in the 110th Congress, President Bush has opposed, threatened to veto, or vetoed, over 30 bills in the first seven months of the 110th Congress. In March, the President vetoed a bill to provide emergency funding to our troops and would have changed course in Iraq. In June, he vetoed bipartisan-supported legislation that would have lifted restrictions on federally-funded stem cell research and given hope to the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from diseases or conditions that could one day be treated with therapies derived from this research. And most recently, President Bush sunk to a new low by threatening to veto funding for children’s health care. Thus far, many Republicans have refused to join him in that effort, and have instead pledged to work with Democrats to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, and if necessary override the President’s veto. (Washington Post, “On Eve of Vote, Farm Bill Draws Threat of a Veto,” 07/25/07;Los Angeles Times, “Bush could face first veto override,” 07/22/07.)
Americans elected Democrats to move the country in a new direction, and we are delivering on that promise, in spite of unprecedented opposition by Bush Republicans. The “block and blame” strategy of Congressional Republicans simply will not work. After more than a decade of Republican control, Congressional Democrats are pursuing the priorities and passing the legislation that is important to the American people. In addition to other measures, Democrats have:
- Passed legislation to increase the federal minimum wage;
- Passed an emergency spending bill that included $6 billion for hurricane relief;
- Passed a bill to upgrade military health care and provide a 3.5 percent pay raise for our troops;
- Passed an Iraq supplemental appropriations bill that included an additional $1.8 billion for veterans’ health care;
- Passed a bill to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations;
- Passed an ethics and lobbying reform bill;
- Passed a bill to cut subsidies to student lenders and provide $17 billion in grants and other student aid;
- Passed a bill to better regulate the student loan industry;
- Passed a fiscally responsible budget; and
- Passed an energy bill that increased fuel-efficiency standards for the first time since 1975.