The New Obstruction

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Matt Yglesias writes about the routine use of the filibuster and other delaying tactics in Congress:

It’s worth emphasizing how one-sided efficacious minority party obstruction has been. The Bush administration wasn’t able to get its agenda through congress unscathed, but fundamentally they did achieved their main goals in terms of tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, substantially altering Medicare in 2003, and of course securing support for the invasion of Iraq and 2002.

In fact, it’s worth emphasizing this even more.   Republicans gained significant levels of Democratic support for No Child Left Behind, the 2001 tax cut, the post-9/11 war resolution, Sarbanes-Oxley, McCain-Feingold, the Iraq war resolution, the 2003 tax cut, the Medicare prescription drug bill, and the bankruptcy bill.  That’s a lot of bipartisan support

But what about Social Security, you ask.  That was certainly a full court press by the D team.  And yes it was.  But by the time the summer of 2005 was over, it didn’t have much Republican support either.

In any case, the point isn’t that full-blown unanimous obstruction is something new under the sun.  There will always be issues here and there that are so central to a party’s governing ideology that there’s really no room for compromise.  The point is that Dems, for better or worse, never tried to make every single bill a destruction test of the opposing party’s governance.  Republicans are doing exactly that, and that is something new under the sun.  Unfortunately, as Matt says, it may be a shrewd calculation on their part: if you make the government look incapable of accomplishing anything at any time, and if the media generally treats this as politics as usual, it’s the party in power that suffers the most regardless of who’s been throwing the pies around.  So why not throw pies at every opportunity?

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