Monday, February 15, 2010

Letter From the Editor: Enough! Stop 'Minority Tyranny' and Nuke the Filibuster

With Senate Republicans Determined to Block President Obama's Entire Agenda, an Intransigence Never Before Seen Against Any Previous President -- Democrat or Republican -- the GOP is Engaging In an Unconstitutional Abuse of Power, a 'Tyranny of the Minority' That Must Be Stopped By Imposing the 'Nuclear Option' to Do Away With Filibusters

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) (second from left) speaks as (left to right) Senators Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) listen during a Capitol Hill news conference in early January on the economic stimulus package. The election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate in Massachusetts' January 19 special election gives Republicans the 41 votes they need under Senate rules to maintain a filibuster. But combined with the GOP serving notice that they will block every policy proposal by the Obama administration, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Republicans are engaging in an unconstitutional abuse of power -- a "tyranny of the minority" that has never before been exercised against any previous president, whether a Democrat or a Republican. (Photo: Getty Images)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, February 15, 2010)


By now, more than a year after Barack Obama took office as the 44th president of the United States -- and the first African-American to assume the office -- it is becoming more and more apparent that the Republican opposition in Congress, and particularly in the Senate, is not acting in the role of the "loyal opposition" that one would expect in a democracy.

Instead, the GOP is engaging in an unprecedented attempt to grind to a complete halt the president's ability to govern. Not to mention the ability of the majority party in Congress to pass legislation.

This is nothing less than an outright "tyranny of the minority" that is a clearly unconstitutional abuse of power. The evidence of this abuse of power is becoming more and more apparent with each passing month. And it must be stopped.


In a scathing expose, MSNBC's Rachael Maddow noted that the Republicans in Congress have repeatedly done an about-face on one policy idea after another that they themselves proposed, turning around and opposing those same ideas once President Obama adopted them -- even going so far as to do a 180-degree turn on policies implemented by the previous Bush administration that Obama continued.

It was the Republicans who first proposed a blue-ribbon commission to come up with ways to deal with the ballooning budget deficit, Maddow notes. But once the president endorsed the idea, the GOP turned around and came out against it.

The Republicans, who are supposedly deeply concerned about the ballooning budget deficit, voted against a major deficit-fighting tool backed by Obama: Enshrining into law the so-called "pay-as-you-go" budgeting rules that were first implemented under President Bill Clinton in 1995 under prodding from the then-GOP-controlled Congress.

Obama on Friday signed the "pay-as-you-go" measure into law -- part of a larger bill raising the national debt ceiling to $14.294 trillion, without which the federal government would have been forced to shut down. Yet almost every Republican in both the House and the Senate voted against it.

Many of the same Republicans who voted in favor of the massive Wall Street bailout when Bush was president are now blasting Obama for continuing it (Although to be fair, almost everyone across the political spectrum -- left and right, Republican, Democrat and independent -- now deeply resents the Wall Street bailout while Main Street continues to lag behind).


It's both ironic and hypocritical on the part of Republicans that the controversial cap-and-trade plan to fight climate change which Republicans so vociferously oppose now was one of their own ideas -- first proposed as an amendment to the 1970 Clean Air Act and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The Republican-controlled Congress later passed -- and President Bill Clinton signed -- in 1995 a highly successful cap-and-trade program to fight acid rain.

And President George W. Bush signed into law a cap-and-trade system passed by the then-Republican-controlled Congress in 2005 that was intended to sharply reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

But now, with Obama proposing an expansion of cap-and-trade to fight climate change, the Republicans in Congress are fighting mad against it.

After being rebuked three times by the Supreme Court on constitutional habeas corpus grounds, Bush grudgingly accepted trying terrorism suspects in the civilian courts. There was nary a peep of protest by congressional Republicans then.

Yet when Obama began to more fully carry out the high court's mandate, the GOP -- prompted by former Vice President Dick Cheney -- started screaming bloody murder about the president "threatening national security" by not treating terror suspects an "enemy combatants" and trying them in military tribunals.

Never mind the fact that the high court three times declared the tribunals unconstitutional.


And now Senate Republicans -- emboldened by Brown's victory -- are vowing to use their newly-bolstered filibuster power to stymie virtually every domestic policy initiative that Obama proposes.

To say that this would paralyze the Senate would be a gross understatement. This is nothing less than a declaration by the Republicans of an insurrection against the administration and the majority party in Congress intended to make it impossible for the president to govern effectively.

This is a flat-out abuse of power that imposes a tyranny of the minority -- a tyranny that is clearly unconstitutional and violates the most precious tenet of democracy: That within the parameters set by the Constitution, the majority rules.

Since Obama became president nearly 13 months ago, "Republicans have ratcheted up use of the filibuster up to completely unheard-of levels," said Norman Ornstein, an expert on Congress at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right policy organization, in an interview with the McClatchy Newspapers. "Look at the things that the House has passed that can't make it through the Senate. The list just keeps growing."

This is as unconscionable as it is unprecedented. Never before in the history of this republic -- not even during the bitter relationship between the GOP-controlled Congress and President Andrew Johnson, an independent-turned-Democrat, in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era when the ideological roles of the two major parties were the exact reverse of what they are today -- has the opposition party been so hell-bent on crippling a president's ability to govern.

This willful abuse of power must be stopped. The Democratic majority in the Senate has an obligation to defend the Constitution of the United States "against all enemies, foreign and domestic," as each and every member of Congress is duty-bound by their oath of office to do.

And if that means they must get rid of the Senate's time-honored tradition of the filibuster by invoking to so-called "nuclear option" -- which is really a change of Senate rules -- then so be it.

This goes way beyond the issue of health-care reform, on which I have previously advocated invoking the "nuclear option." It is becoming abundantly clear that the Republicans are employing the filibuster in an unconstitutional power grab.


Yet even as Maddow made her point-by-point case against the Republicans' intransigence, one question remained unanswered -- indeed, Maddow never even asked it:


Why have the Republicans done an about-face on every single policy idea they’ve proposed after President Obama embraced them?

Why have the Republicans become so bullheadedly obstructionist and come out in knee-jerk fashion against each and every policy proposal that the Obama administration come up with?

They never did that to John F. Kennedy. They never did that to Lyndon Johnson. They never did that to Jimmy Carter. They never did that to Bill Clinton.

The fact is, the Republicans in Congress have never, ever come out so forcefully against a Democratic president's entire policy agenda — until Barack Obama.

Again, I ask: Why?

And what's with all this public yammering by Republicans and their conservative allies about Obama being a "socialist?" Even Senator Joesph McCarthy, for all of his Red-baiting, would never have dared to publicly call President Dwight Eisenhower a "communist," let alone a "socialist."

They never called Kennedy a "socialist." They never called Johnson a "socialist." They never called Carter a "socialist." They never called Clinton a "socialist." Yet Republicans repeatedly claim that Barack Obama is a "socialist."

Yet again I'm forced to ask: Why?

What is it about Barack Obama -- alone among Democratic presidents since World War II -- that generates so much animosity against him by Republicans? Could the fact that Barack Obama is an African-American have something to do with it?

It’s getting harder and harder for me to avoid coming to that conclusion, especially since there are no African-Americans among the Republican members of Congress.


Republicans, particularly hard-line conservatives, even gone so far as to repeatedly challenge the authority of their own party's national chairman, Michael Steele — the party's first-ever black national chairman -- curbing his powers to control party funds, for example, powers that nearly all of Steele's predecessors have enjoyed almost unfettered.

Steele himself admitted, in an interview with CNN commentator Roland Martin on his weekly syndicated TV show "Washington Watch" last November that that he's experienced fear from white Republicans because he's black.

Responding to Martin's criticism of white Republicans as being "scared of black folks" and that he faces a tough job at drawing black voter support for Republicans, Steele acknowledged that "I've been in the room and they've [white Republicans] been scared of me and I'm like, 'I'm on your side.'"

As Republicans' intransigence toward Obama -- and even Steele -- continues month after month, it’s becoming increasingly apparent to this writer by now that there some Republicans who have a problem accepting the authority of this president because he is an African-American.

The fact that there continues to be deep suspicion among GOP conservatives of Steele's leadership of the party is making in increasingly apparent to me also that there are some Republicans who have a problem with an African-American leading their party. Indeed, it's hardly a secret that right-wing hard-liners in the GOP never wanted Steele to be chairman in the first place and fought tooth and nail in a bitter, albeit unsuccessful, campaign to defeat him with nasty innuendo.


If anyone has doubts that racial animus is a motivating factor in the unprecedented degree of animosity toward Obama by the Republicans, I strongly urge you to watch the DVD -- if you can find it -- of the 1972 James Earl Jones movie, "The Man," in which Jones played Douglass Dillman, an African-American U.S. Senator who found himself suddenly catapulted under extraordinary circumstances into becoming the first black president of the Untied States -- and how he had to fight tooth and nail to assert his authority in the face of strident opposition from white politicians.

As I see it, what the Republicans are doing to Obama is nothing less than a real-life version of "The Man" -- a direct challenge by white Republicans to the authority of the nation's first black president and even to the authority of their own party's first black national chairman.

The longer and more persistent this resistance to Obama and Steele goes on, the more irrational it becomes -- and the more apparent it becomes that racial bias is a major reason behind it.

It's time to face facts: There are some white Republicans -- too many, as far as I'm concerned -- who simply cannot stomach a black man holding the nation's highest office. Nor can they stomach a black man leading their own party.

And the time is overdue to call these bigots out on it.

Skeeter Sanders
Editor & Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report

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Volume V, Number 11
Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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