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 Democratic-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. Under Democratic leadership, Congress has enacted bills to provide economic stimulus, extend unemployment benefits, provide a 21st Century GI bill, promote energy independence, invest in food and nutrition programs, increase the minimum wage, prevent foreclosures, provide a pay increase for our troops, provide middle class tax relief, strengthen homeland security, fund and improve critical domestic programs, and reform the ethics and lobbying system. And in the last week, Congress enacted major legislation, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, to address the nation’s housing crisis. Despite these important accomplishments, we know that more needs to be done.

Since President Bush took office, the American standard of living has plummeted and the cost of living has skyrocketed. Median household income has declined by nearly $1,000 and more than one million more Americans are unemployed; at the same time, gas prices are up 173 percent, health care premiums have increased 78 percent, college costs have risen by over 60 percent, and more than two million Americans are facing foreclosure.

As Democrats have worked to advance the priorities of the American people, Bush- McCain Republicans have set new records for obstructionism in the 110th Congress. Senate Republicans have engaged in nearly 90 filibusters, blocked committee hearings, and placed countless numbers of “holds” on bipartisan legislation that would normally pass the Senate expeditiously by unanimous consent. While these partisan, parliamentary hijinks may be “working” for Republicans, they are failing the American people.

As we move forward, Senate Democrats once again urge Senate Republicans to defy their reputation as the “Grand Obstructionist Party” and join us in our effort advance the priorities of working- and middle-class Americans, starting with making the American dream more affordable and jumpstarting the economy.

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 more than 90 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 five months to go in the Congress! 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 nearly 40 cloture votes on motions to proceed – wasting weeks, spanning into months, 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, with the help of his Republican colleagues, is obstructing the passage of nearly 80 bills, many of which are House-passed measures that would normally be passed in the Senate by the expedited process of unanimous consent. Before leaving for the August recess, Senate Democrats gave Senate Republicans an opportunity to end these delays by voting to proceed to S.3297, the Advancing America’s Priorities Act of 2008, which included more than thirty of the bills being blocked by this Senator — bills that should have already been enacted into law and working for the American people. The package included legislation to promote important medical research, authorize new programs to protect children from exploitation, and advance U.S. foreign policy goals.

Instead of joining Senate Democrats to pass this critical legislation, Republicans chose obstructionism over progress, with 40 Republican Senators voting to block even the consideration of this package. This latest example only underscores “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.” (U.S. Senate, Legislation and Records, Votes, Roll Call 189, Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S.3297 Rejected 52-40 (60 votes required for acceptance), available here; Congressional Quarterly, “Energy Dispute Blocks Housing Bill,” June 25, 2008, available here.)

In just the last few days, Senate Republicans have summarily blocked or delayed the passage of measures to address the nation’s most critical economic problems. In a classic display of unyielding partisanship, Republicans have repeatedly turned their backs on: