Senate Republican protest is counterproductive

The Senate Republican response to the Senate rules change is that they will all join together to slow everything down to a crawl, to punish Democrats for the reforms. New York Times:

The Senate slowly began working its way through a backlog of presidential nominees on Tuesday now that Republicans are virtually powerless to block confirmations, approving a once-stalled judge to a powerful appeals court and a new director for the agency that oversees federal home lending.

But Republicans, still seething over a power play last month by Democrats to curtail the filibuster significantly, have settled on a strategy for retribution: make the confirmation process as time-consuming and procedurally painful as possible for Democrats.

“There’s a price that has to be paid when people abuse the rules,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah. “And let’s face it. These guys have completely obliterated the rules.”

Setting aside the irony of Senate Republicans saying the rules are being abused — and setting aside my view that it’s probably barely possible at this point to make it go any slower than it was — let’s accept the premise for the sake of debate. My question: do they really think this is going to be a persuasive argument to American voters, to convince them that the rules change was the wrong move?

U.S. voters, broadly speaking, love bold, fast action from government if it’s going to act at all. Senate Democrats saw a logjam, got fed up with it, and finally broke it. Republicans think forming a new one will win them voters. How? It’s just going to make Senate Democrats and voters even more likely to support changing even more of the Senate’s rules.

Slowing down operations to punish the majority for trying to speed up operations is only going to harden the majority’s determination to expand efforts to speed things up. Many Senate Dems are still skeptical of further changes and held out as long as possible against this limited reform. I’m sure a lot of them wouldn’t go along with more changes if they believed it had resolved the problem.

Being conciliatory and cooperative, instead of belligerent, makes way more sense as a long-term strategy to persuade people to stop taking options away from you. If you think everyone has characterized you incorrectly, you don’t go trying to prove them right by doing the thing they accuse you of, as a means of responding. That’s just poor strategy.

On the upside, Democrats aren’t taking the new abuses of the rules lying down:

“It’s retaliatory,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. “It’s revenge,” he added, noting that Democrats had a way of making things unpleasant themselves: by forcing Republicans to be physically present on the Senate floor while they draw things out.

“They’re going to have to keep speaking for four hours or eight hours at a time,” Mr. Harkin said. “And I don’t think they’ll have the stomach to do that on Fridays and Saturdays.”

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official.
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