Senate Senate Riot Obstruction Highlights Republican Obstruction Toll We Are Not Seeing
Senate Republicans last week blocked a bill to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan.6 attack on the United States Capitol. Many newspaper articles have described this as the “first” obstruction of the current session of Congress. This is a mistake. In fact, the entire Democratic agenda in Congress has been crippled by obstructions for months. And unless Senate Republicans change strategy or Democrats change Senate rules, Democrats will fail to deliver on the ambitious policies they promised in the 2020 election, for which a majority of Americans voted.
In my book, “Flibustering”, I define a flibuster as “legislative behavior (or the threat of such behavior) intended to delay a collective decision for strategic gain”. Under this definition, a bill can be obstructed without being voted on if senators expect it to be obstructed in the Senate. While journalists often measure obstructions by reviewing bills blocked in the Senate, my approach helps us identify obstructions that are successful by avoiding bills altogether or forcing changes in a bill to secure support for the government. ‘a large majority of the Senate.
In fact, threats of systematic obstruction by Senate Republicans are already delaying several high-profile bills.
Since January, House Democrats have demonstrated just how effective an unobstructed chamber – real or threatened – can be. In addition to the US bailout passed in March, the House approved legislation to reform federal election laws, expand gun background checks, reduce racial bias in the police, pave the way for citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors, to raise the minimum wage, ensure equal pay for women and non-discrimination for LGBTQ people, and admit Washington, DC, in as a state.
But all of this legislation faces expected obstructions in the Senate, which is why Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., failed to bring the bill to the Senate. This does not mean that each of these bills enjoys the support of a majority of the Senate, but it does mean that under Article 22 of the Senate, any Republican can threaten to debate these bills indefinitely, requiring a three-fifths majority for a “closure” vote to impose a time limit on speaking time for a bill.
And because everyone knows these bills will be delayed, Senate Democrats have been slow to initiate a process that will almost certainly end in failure.
The threat of systematic obstruction also affects the ongoing negotiations on infrastructure spending. Both sides expressed support for investment in infrastructure. And President Joe Biden would like to negotiate a bipartisan deal. But under Article 22, that essentially means that at least 10 Republican senators must be willing to vote for the negotiated bill, so that the Senate Republican group can negotiate on an equal footing with Biden himself. if the Democrats control the White House and have a majority. seats in the US House and Senate.
In short, the modern Senate’s default assumption is that every bill that can be obstructed will be obstructed by at least one senator. It requires negotiations and possibly a closing vote to move them forward. Some bills – including budget legislation – are exempt from the filibuster enshrined in federal law, but that offers little protection for the rest of the Democratic agenda. Without change, the Capitol Riots standoff will increasingly look like the status quo. And behind closed doors, silent obstruction, in the broadest sense, ensures that Senate obstruction is here to stay.