For eight years – or at least since the 2010 midterms – we’ve heard that Republicans in Congress have no interest in actually running the country or proposing legislation. No, their only purpose was to sit on Capitol Hill and oppose anything that came from the desk of President Barack Obama. That was it. If they happened to do anything else in the meantime, it was purely by accident. They were anti-government, racist obstructionists who were harming the country.
And now Democrats are preparing to follow that example to a T.
Their first big foray into obstruction will likely begin immediately with the Senate confirmation hearings. On Thursday, 16 Democrats in the Senate drew a line in the sand, demanding that no committee hold a vote on any of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees until they have passed an FBI background check, submitted a financial report with the Office of Government Ethics, and complied with “reasonable requests for additional information.”
Thanks to their own rule changes, though, Democrats will only be able to do so much as the minority party. When Republicans were filibustering in 2013, Sen. Harry Reid made it so Cabinet nominees could be confirmed with a simple majority. Now that Republicans have that majority, Dems will have to get at least four of them on their side if they want to block one of Trump’s picks. They can make a lot of noise and they can drag these hearings out for longer than necessary, but their power is limited.
Nominees like Rex Tillerson, Betsy DeVos, and Jeff Sessions may give Democrats their first opportunity to fight the Trump administration, but they will probably save the knock-down, drag-out wars for the new president’s legislative agenda. Trump and the Republicans are moving forward with a brand new tax code, the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and many other measures that will be met with liberal resistance.
In a message to House Democrats last week, Nancy Pelosi called on her caucus to do everything in their power to prevent Republicans from scrapping the Affordable Care Act. She declared January 14 a “national day of action” for progressives, marked by nationwide protests against the new administration.
You don’t need to have a razor-sharp memory to remember how the media treated Republicans when they were standing in the way of Obama’s agenda, so it will be fascinating to see how that coverage changes as the two parties swap roles.
Utterly predictable, but fascinating nonetheless.