The day that President Obama was inaugurated, Mitch McConnell and other Republicans met to plan their strategy to “make President Obama a one-term president.” Their strategy: Obstruct every policy proposed by the president in any way possible. Their weapon of choice became the filibuster, which they have used over 375 times to deny the implementation of his policies.
One definition of a filibuster is the use of dilatory or obstructive tactics to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. Since Democrats have a majority in the Senate, measures that Democrats propose and Republicans oppose would likely pass. However, Republicans can keep a measure from passing by using the filibuster, which would then require the measure to pass by a 60 percent plurality rather than by majority rule.
The approval rating of this Congress (the 113th) hovers around 11 percent, and they are in line to be the most unproductive in history, only having passed 15 bills into law during their 2-year session. Instead, they have used their filibuster technique remorselessly.
Most of the acts which have been filibustered by Republicans during the Obama administration reveal how Republicans would rather see President Obama (and the country) fail rather than to fulfill their responsibilities to the citizens who elected them.
Some examples of bills which have been filibustered by the Republicans during the Obama administration:
Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act. This bill would prevent corporations from taking deductions and/or tax credits due to outsourcing. They also would not be allowed to defer tax payments on profits earned overseas.
The Disclose Act would require corporations to disclose political spending.
The Manchin-Toomey Bill would extend background checks to those purchasing guns at gun shows and Internet sales.
The American Jobs Act would cut payroll taxes for workers by 50 percent and provide for similar cuts to small businesses. It would include aid to states to pay teachers, police officers, and other public workers, and provide infrastructure spending.
The Buffett Bill would require a minimum 30 percent tax on the very wealthy.
The Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act. The oil industry could no longer qualify for tax credits as “manufacturers,” and royalty payments to foreign governments for drilling rights would no longer be tax deductible.
Other filibustered bills include the Elder Abuse Victims Act, the Wounded Veterans Job Security Act, the Homeless Veterans Reunification Program Reauthorization Act, the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
But in its haste to take its five-week vacation, Congress was able to pass a few measures. The House and Senate did pass the Highway Trust Fund, which will keep that fund solvent for only a few more months. In doing so they decided to pay for it by “pension smoothing,” which permits corporations to put less than the required amount into pension funds for their workers, thereby increasing their profits. At the same time, this subsidy to corporations increases the unfunded liability of the pension funds, leaving future pensioners at risk.
The House also passed an immigration bill so draconian that it will unlikely pass the Senate and is sure to be vetoed by President Obama. But it satisfied the far right agenda subscribed to by House representatives Michelle Bachmann and Steven King. Rep. Bachmann bragged that she and other Tea Party members “completely gutted” the version proposed by John Boehner and the Republican leadership, an indication that Congress is not only divided by red and blue, but the red has obstructionists within its own party.
But the irony of this last week is stunning. John Boehner and his Republican cohorts voted to sue President Obama for using executive authority in delaying the Affordable Care Act, a law they tried to repeal over 50 times. Seriously.
But the irony does not end there. As they tried to fashion some sort of an immigration bill before leaving for their vacation, the Republican leadership stated that if a bill is not passed, the president has the tools to address this problem without congressional authorization. So one day they voted to sue him for exercising his executive authority, and the next day they demanded that he assert his authority to address the immigration issue. You can’t make this stuff up.
Cynthia Neely is a Lodi resident and former city attorney.