Reid targets obstructionism

REID TARGETS OBSTRUCTIONISM…. The average American has a hard enough time staying engaged and informed with the political process; asking them to appreciate Senate procedural issues probably isn’t realistic. But it’s worth at least some effort to shine a light on the unprecedented obstructionist tactics.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is understandably frustrated. As if it weren’t enough addressing the multitude of crises left by eight years of incompetence, mismanagement, neglect, and corruption, Reid is the first Majority Leader in the history of the republic to also have to assemble supermajorities on every single vote of any consequence.

When he highlights the absurdities of Republican tactics, Reid can have success. Last month, for example, GOP senators refused to let the Senate vote on President Obama’s surgeon general nominee, despite the H1N1 public health emergency. After Reid threw a fit, Republicans backed down.

Perhaps the lesson, then, is to keep screaming bloody murder.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on a kick. Personally frustrated, and under pressure from the left, Reid has decided to take direct aim at Republican obstruction, and he’s doing so in angry terms.

“For anybody watching, what’s taken place the last three years knows the Republicans have become experts in wasting time, the American taxpayers’ time, the American people’s time, and yesterday was no exception,” Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Democrats can’t pass off all of the blame for the glacial pace of progress in the last several months. With a 60-member caucus, they in theory have sufficient numbers to overcome GOP filibusters of key agenda items, if they could only agree to stay united. But even if they did muscle their agenda through the procedural labyrinth of the Senate, they still wouldn’t be able to stop the foot-dragging.

Republicans have threatened to filibuster 58 times this year. Thirty times, they’ve actually forced cloture votes — and when cloture is invoked, the Senate must usually wait hours before the underlying issue can pass. More crucially, they’ve also blocked nominations and legislation and delayed proceedings in other ways, all of which waste precious legislating hours in a body that spends almost as much time out of session as it does in session.

The fight over extending unemployment benefits was especially ridiculous — Republicans delayed the bill for five weeks and launched three separate filibusters on a measure that would eventually pass unanimously — but the tactics have been nothing short of madness all year.

We’re talking about an unprecedented number of filibuster threats, an unprecedented number of cloture votes, an unprecedented number of blocked judicial nominees, and an unprecedented number of secret and not-so-secret holds.

The American system of government was not designed to function this way, and it’s an unsustainable approach.

Chris Hayes this week described these tactics as “a cancer growing inside the world’s greatest deliberative body….. [T]he filibuster confers such power on an obstinate minority that it distorts the relationship between elections and governance in a way that dangerously attenuates democracy itself.”

The more the Senate Majority Leader registers his outrage, the better.