Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats Work to Make the American Dream More Affordable Despite Efforts of the ‘Grand Obstructionist Party’

“The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail…and so far it’s working for us.”

— Former Republican Whip, Senator Trent Lott (Roll Call, 4/18/07)

Since January 2007, the Democrat-led, 110th Congress has made a significant down-payment on our promise to take the country in a new direction after nearly a decade of Republican control and make America more affordable for working and middle class families. Under Democratic leadership, Congress has enacted bills to provide economic stimulus, promote energy independence, invest in food and nutrition programs, increase the minimum wage, prevent foreclosures, provide a pay increase for out troops, provide middle class tax relief, strengthen homeland security, fund and improve critical domestic programs, and reform the ethics and lobbying system. Yet, even as the Senate is poised to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan package to address the nation’s housing crisis and a supplemental appropriations legislation that includes a 21st Century GI bill and an extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits, Democrats are frustrated that relentless Republican obstructionism has stood in the way of more progress.

During the 110th Congress, Bush, and now, McCain Republicans have set new records for obstructionism in the United States Senate. As of this writing, they have engaged in 77 filibusters in the 110th Congress and we still have six months to go. In the last month, they have blocked committee hearings and stalled Senate business by forcing Senate Democrats to jump through unnecessary procedural hoops. While these parliamentary hijinks may be “working” for Republicans, they are failing the American people. Senate Democrats continue to urge our Republican colleagues to realign their misplaced priorities with those of working- and middle-class Americans. Democrats are working to advance their priorities, beginning with making the American dream more affordable and jumpstarting the economy. We are working for change. We invite Senate Republicans to defy their reputation as the “Grand Obstructionist Party” and join us in our effort.

Bush-McCain Republicans have engaged in unprecedented obstructionism. Senate Republicans have delayed nearly every piece of major legislation in the 110th Congress. By repeatedly threatening to filibuster, the GOP has forced 77 cloture votes in the Senate, thereby requiring Democrats to move or pass legislation, not by a simple majority, but by a super-majority of 60 votes. And we have nearly six months to go! In the full two-year term of the 109th Congress — when Democrats were in the minority — the Senate had only 52 cloture votes on minority filibusters. Prior to the 110th Congress, the all-time high for cloture votes in a two-year term was 57. Republicans have shattered this record. (U.S. Senate, Legislation and Records, Votes, Roll Call Tables, available here.)

Senate Republicans have refused to even debate legislation. Bush-McCain Republicans have not only used cloture motions to require a super-majority to pass legislation, they have used cloture motions on motions to proceed to force a super-majority to even consider legislation. Already, in the one and a half years of the two-year, 110th Congress, Republicans have forced 34 cloture votes on motions to proceed – wasting weeks of the Senate’s time.  As a comparison, in the 109th Congress there were only 12 of these votes, and in the 108th Congress there were only nine. (U.S. Senate, Legislation and Records, Votes, Roll Call Tables, available here.)

Bush-McCain Republicans have stood in the way of bills that address the most critical issues facing our nation. Many of the bills Senate Republicans have blocked or delayed are popular, bipartisan, and/or non-controversial. Currently, one Republican Senator is obstructing passage of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, a widely supported and vital measure that would address the mortgage foreclosure crisis that has crippled our economy by bringing relief to American homeowners and stabilizing the housing markets. His actions further underscore “how even bipartisan bills have fallen victim to gridlock in the closely divided Senate and how much a single senator can stand in the way.” (Congressional Quarterly, “Energy Dispute Blocks Housing Bill,” (June 25, 2008, available here.)

These obstructionist tactics only waste time, countless hours totaling weeks of valuable floor time that could be used to advance more of the people’s priorities. The list of bills Republicans have blocked or delayed, often multiple times, includes legislation to: