We hear about Republican filibusters and we think perhaps of Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and see all this flurry of activity under the bright lights of television and tell ourselves that it is really only about “politics as usual” in Washington. Or we think of it as some kind of inside-the-beltway political maneuvering. It isn’t. It is as real as your garbage man not showing up for three weeks. It is as real as Al Qaeda killing 3000 people in the World Trade Center. Well, it is just that real.
Some people mistakenly think that all filibusters are done by the underdog. Given the current makeup of the Senate, that would be the Republicans. But the Republicans are not the underdogs. They’re not Populists, the Jimmy Stewart character, working for the people. They are corporatists, working for the largest international corporations in the world. This is all about “filibuster for hire.” Shut down Obama and you shut down the People. Make the morons, the bigots and the white supremacists think that you are working for them and that the President is not. Stop government and you stop regulation and any spending and taxes, and you keep the wars going. The Republicans are not with the people. The opposite is true.
For example, the Republicans filibustered the health reform program, a valuable piece of legislation that will initially help about 30 million Americans but will eventually reduce health care costs, help save our economy (because when the bill is made stronger costs will drop dramatically) and give all Americans the security–at the very least–of some kind of minimum standard health care available at a reasonable cost. But was it the Republicans who were really concerned and wanted to “start all over” and take it “step-by-step” and create more useless health savings accounts and stem the “government takeover?’ (A lie of course.) So after a year of filibustering until they couldn’t filibuster any longer…then they wanted to “start over?”
No. The Republicans were never serious. They work for the health care industry…health insurance firms. Certain people who profited before from health care, like Rick Scott of Hospital Corporation of America whose company paid a $1.7 billion fine for cheating Medicare. He walked away, stayed out of jail and made $100 million. He doesn’t want the government involved because he is trying to do it again.
Just look at who was for health care reform and who was against it. Rick Scott was against it. Rush Limbaugh was against health care reform. Do you trust him to be on your side. The erratic and self-described farcical-loony-character-for-money Glenn Beck railed against it. Sean Hannity of Fox News is against it. Mitch McConnell–against it. Does this inspire confidence in you about their concern for the common man? By filibustering a bill that can only help the average American…can’t hurt him or her.
So why get so worked up about it as to filibuster everything? Because the one group that will be hurt by it is the patron of the Republican Senators…the health insurance industry. Their prices will come down. Or…how about Newt Gingrich? Do you believe him? He was against health care reform now and in 1993. This time he wanted to put it off for a while, study it some more, research it a little more…after 15 years of not thinking about it for one minute. The guy who destroyed, demolished, disintegrated health care in 1993..any kind of universal program, Clinton said he would agree to, to get started. Newt said no way. Newt works for the “man.” He works for the corporations against the people.
These people are all multi-millionaires. They are either the people getting rich from totally robbing Americans of all discretionary income and sending it to hospitals, specialists, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and their Republican lackeys who get obscene amounts of money and great post-congressional lobbying jobs to do it.
Anyway, to put things in perspective, in the 110th Congress–2007-2008, the Republicans denied the American people votes on legislation 112 times. In the first two months of this year, 2010, there already were 40 filibusters. Of course everyone knows what it means. Legislation stops. Can’t go forward until the opposite Party…in this case the Democrats…can get 60 votes. The Democrats do not have completely clean hands on this either. But there is a history.
In the entire 19th Century, even with the contentious slavery issue, fewer than two dozen filibusters were ever mounted. It was considered unseemly behavior in the pristine, rarefied air of the Senate. During the FDR administration, it was used only a few times…get this…by Southern senators to block anti-lynching legislation! (Anti-lynching. Black President. Obstruction. Southern Republican Senators)
Then filibusters let up a little until after Civil Rights, the mid-fifties and early 60s. Since most of the serious racial issues had been knocked out and legislation on them had been enacted, it became somewhat more acceptable. It wasn’t just about race any longer. By the late 1970s and 1980s (Democrats, of course, under Reagan) filibusters ran about 20 a year.
But as the Conservative and later the Neo-Conservative Republicans took hold of the Republican Party, an attitude of do-anything-to-win attitude took over against Clinton. In the 1993-94 period there were 32 filibusters against a Democratic Senate, and, it should be noted, they helped to kill the first health care reform bill. They never even let it get to a vote.
Then, in the 106th Congress, 1999-2000, the Democrats filibustered 58 times, which was the highest number they have ever filibustered when out of power. In the 106th Congress, the Republicans had 55 Senate seats and the Democrats 45. One must remember that during this time, the Republican Senate was involved with legislation that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act by passing the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act (Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999) which changed the financial regulatory system completely. They also passed the Commodity Futures Stabilization Act during that period, a contentious piece of legislation de-regulating certain Over-the-Counter transactions that led directly to one part of the economic collapse of 2008.
But the actions of the Republicans in the 111th Congress have been called by a professor of political science at Texas Christian University, an expert on congressional history, simply “astonishing.” Not only the filibusters of legislation, but Senator Shelby’s blanket “hold” on President Obama’s appointees to government and the Federal bench. One Senator is able to hold up all the appointees of a President. It is more than astonishing. It is seditious. Whether Shelby likes having a black President or not, whether he likes having a Democratic President or not, he has no right to hold up the entire government of the majority of the People of the United States of America.
Here is where we are mid-way through 2010. The Senate has tried to filibuster every piece of legislation that would: create jobs, reduce the power of the health insurance industry, regulate rogue financial institutions and stimulate economic activity. The filibuster had left the country impotent. The only solution, one that probably won’t happen, even as tea party morons parade around supporting these plutocrats, is to vote Republican Senators out.
Of course we now know, to our sadness and shame as Americans, that we apparently, according to surveys, still have a majority of bigots and racists in the Southern states. It is tragic, and unfortunately with states like Texas ordering textbooks that say that men and dinosaurs lived at the same time, that the earth is something like 40,000 years old and leave Thomas Jefferson completely out of American History….there is little chance that they will learn enough soon enough to change minds in those Confederate, still-segregationist states.
The process now is about stopping the filibuster. So if Democrats are out of power, they will then filibuster everything. That will mean nothing will get done. That is what the Republicans want. The American People must come to understand that the filibuster is the weapon of choice by those who want to stop things like more government investment in high-speed rail, or government changing how private health care insurance companies can treat their customers. It is about stopping financial reform so that the Wall Street crowd can bring down the market again. The money didn’t disappear. It went into the pockets of brokers on Wall Street.
The legislative process of this country has been transformed in the last several years by the Senate Republicans. They no longer care if people get health care, if people get pensions, if people can afford gas or food or energy. They don’t care if you don’t like the cost of two wars. Their constituents are the big corporations. Big corporations do not want the government spending any money except on them.
Right now–today–Southern senators representing only 34 million of the 300 million people in this country, from the 21 least populous states are holding up legislation or using that leverage to reduce the effectiveness of legislation for the other 90% of Americans.