Choosing Power over Voters
Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 27, 2021
It’s early yet, but we have plenty of evidence already that, according to the new Republican minority in Washington, elections don’t have a lot of consequences.
That consequences line has been almost a joke among Republican senators and lawmakers who have raised it repeatedly in reference to the 2016 election of Donald Trump to justify almost any appointment or policy that they wanted. But put the Democratic opponent in office, even by a substantial majority, and all of a sudden, the phrase is seemingly empty.
Less than a week into the Biden years, it is clear that congressional Republicans are lining up to block almost anything that Joe Biden or Democrats propose, from coronavirus aid to impeachment.
Even when you look at an announced “concession” on Monday by now minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bend his strenuous defense of Senate rules that require 60 approval votes on every issue, it seems clear that the only reason he did so was because at least three Democrats agree with him — making the formal opposition unnecessary. McConnell didn’t cede because his forces had lost the election or because Majority Leader Chuck :Schumer had lowered some Senate power hammer. “McConnell Declares Win,” noted a Breitbart News headline.
Indeed, it looks as it McConnell thinks he remains in charge of the legislative agenda. There are any number of Republican lawmakers who now drop the “unity” bomb to complain that they were left out of drafting Biden’s proposals, and there still are active calls that Biden’s election was illegitimate. “The GOP’s definition of unity would require not doing anything the GOP opposes,” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson notes.
Even vast public agreement on the goals of immediate intervention into boosting efforts to fight coronavirus by expanding vaccine efforts and bolstering unemployment payments is not enough to prompt bipartisan agreement, for example. This basically is a bill whose broadest outlines even Trump belatedly had supported. Why doesn’t it have 80 senators in support, never mind a bare majority — or a simple fix to change whatever dollar number they find objectionable?
As a result, obstruction will move the bill to the alternative, imperfect budget “reconciliation” process to bypass Republicans altogether — a process which may not support some elements, including a federal minimum wage increase.
The Democratic message on this bill should be: Play or pay. Legitimately play into bipartisanship or pay the price of a voting snub. It’s a political move that will return in kind, of course, but maybe we can discuss it as we actually get vaccines rather than talk about it.
Here’s the thing: If we can’t agree on federal actions in an emergency, how do we expect Congress to be able to wrestle intelligently about immigration, health care, trade, Climate or any of the million actual, but complex problems facing us.
Before we get deep into political muck, Republicans should remember that Democrats didn’t create the impeachment problem; Donald Trump’s obsessive and inciteful speech did, and it is not “stupid,” as Sen. Mario Rubio, R-Fla. Put it, to ask Trump to own up. Democrats didn’t create the pandemic and its expensive fixes. Democrats didn’t pass corporate tax cuts that put us behind the deficit eight-ball.
If the election showed anything helpful, it was a sign that Americans are tired of inaction and gridlock on behalf of party supremacy. Yes, there was a lot more anti-Trump vote than ringing endorsement for the most liberal proposals for government. But acting quickly in an emergency should be a decision relatively free of partisan politics.
Other than grudgingly allowing Biden’s Cabinet to proceed to office, we’re seeing push and pull over assuring Republican resistance to eliminating the Senate filibuster procedures to make an actual majority matter, and that would make it easier to pass legislation. “McConnell is literally filibustering the Senate organizing resolution in order to preserve the filibuster and selling his actions to the public with a “unity” argument. In other words, Democrats have to prove they’re trying to unify the country by allowing Republicans to veto everything Biden wants to accomplish,” is how the Daily Kos called it.
As things now stand, McConnell has blinked in the tussle — assured by public anti-fillibuster positions by Democrat senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and Jon Tester — and a more normal transition in the Senate can now proceed along the lines of previous close Senates.
Maybe we can’t hope that this fever of over-hyped partisanship can break once we dispense with the impeachment trial. With Republicans once again moving to align as a group to pre-judge that Trump avoid conviction, perhaps we can re-focus on the actual problems besetting the country.
After all, just before we start talking about the next one, perhaps we can remember that elections have consequences.
What Was the Supreme Court Thinking?
While we’re talking election consequences, let’s add the question of what happens when the president leaves office.
On Monday, the U.S Supreme Court issued a brief ruling tossing out lawsuits over Donald Trump’s violation of the “emolument clause” of the Constitution to make money off the presidency. It’s reasoning: Trump has left office. In so doing, the Court wiped out lower court decisions — and, more importantly, left us hanging as to what the Law says about greed great enough to take over the Oval Office.
What? Because Trump dragged his feet long enough on brazen use of his office to build his private businesses on the back of taxpayer-paid decision-making, he gets to walk away unscathed — and hanging onto whatever profit his hotels and golf courses made in profit?
Would they let the bank robber walk away if the bank decided to file for bankruptcy, or worse, if the bank robber decided to publicly quit the robbery business?
I understand that the Court would just as soon avoid what controversy it can, but this is
disappointment on a grand scale — whatever position they would have taken. We have a mystery clause in the Constitution for which we are skipping explanation and an ex-president (and maybe future president) who can be as moral-free out of office as he declared himself to be in it.
Court decisions — and Supreme Court appointments — have consequences, too.