Senate Republicans’ Destructive, Scandalous Agenda of Obstruction

May 13, 2013

by Jeremy Leaming

Beyond barking about alleged Obama administration ethical lapses, congressional Republicans are continuing to cultivate the primary purpose of their agenda – obstruct, hobble and otherwise prevent all three branches of government from functioning.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) early in President Obama’s first term told a right-wing gathering that Republicans’ primary goal was to prevent a second Obama term. Obviously that goal was not met.

Nevertheless, the Republican Party, which has grown even more exclusive, largely concerning itself with the interests of the super wealthy or corporate interests, is bent on doing everything it can to ensure that any efforts to help the middle class and the poor do not make much headway.

One way to do this is to fight efforts to change the make-up of the federal courts, to ensure they remain as business friendly as possible. That’s part of the reason why Senate Republicans have obstructed Obama’s judicial nominations and created a crisis on the federal bench with vacancies hovering over 80 for years. As noted here the president has not been able to place a judge on the august U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and there are four vacancies on the 11-member court. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation to cut the number of judges on the court to 8.

But the obstruction doesn’t stop there. The federal agency charged with carrying out the National Labor Relations Act has been under a constant stream of attack by Republican senators. The five-member board cannot operate without a quorum and after the Republican-controlled D.C. Circuit ruled earlier this year that two of the Board’s members, Richard Griffin and Sharon Block, were improperly appointed during a Senate break, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has been calling for them to resign. Doing so would effectively shutter the National Labor Relations Board until the appeals court process runs its course. And by the way, the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in Canning has been widely blasted as resting on wobbly legal grounds. Moreover, the opinion runs counter to other Circuit court rulings on recess appointments, and the Obama administration has appealed it the U.S. Supreme Court. The president has not asked for their resignations, nor should he.  

Essentially Alexander is urging the Obama administration to throw in the towel and let the NLRB languish for many more months to come. Corporations, not workers would benefit from such an action. This would only further embolden the obstructionists.

Not all of the powerful beltway media are obsessing over Benghazi and the tawdry actions of lower-level IRS employees. The Washington Post’s Jonathan Bernstein in a May 13 post says if one really wants to read about scandal, you should take a look at the “continuing, and possibly accelerating, obstruction of executive branch nominees by Senate Republicans.”

He knows we’ve seen this sorry story too often in recent years, and it’s only getting worse. He notes the Republicans’ efforts to bring down Obama’s Secretary of Labor nominee, Thomas Perez, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s nominee Gina McCarthy.

Bernstein highlights what too many other beltway journalists fail to – the increasing use of the supermajority vote to shut down consideration of legislation and too many judicial and executive branch nominations. This is the Republicans’ doing. The agenda of obstruction is thriving. That Bernstein rightly concludes is the real scandal.