Obstructing Rather Than Governing

Obstructing Rather Than Governing

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Historically in Washington, politics and election cycles always controlled when major legislation would be considered and whether there was even a chance that Congress had the time to consider it. Except for the budget which used to at least come close to being completed before the October 1 beginning of the fiscal year, major legislation needed to begin moving through the legislative labyrinth before the summer of the non-election year for it to stand a chance to be passed before the next congressional election. 

This year, for example, while it has failed so far, gun control legislation moved with lightning speed to even get as far as it did in April. Despite failing to pass in the Senate, its progress suggests that revisiting gun legislation could well be ahead. Similarly, immigration reform bills are actually moving along in both chambers suggesting that there well might be a new law on the books before the country holds the next congressional election in November 2014. Over the past several weeks one had a sense once again, however– even before the IRS scandal, the new round of Benghazi hearings, and the disclosure of the continued extensive use national security authority to undermine a free press—that the Republicans were re-committing to their strategy of the first Obama Administration, to do best by doing least. 

Meanwhile the impact of Congress’ failure to act to avoid sequestration is beginning to be felt more and more back home, as constituents start to sense the effect of the cuts with the flap over airport delays last month being a harbinger of the ugliness to come. As the President’s cabinet appointments join a long list of long pending judicial ones as well, Senate Republicans soon may well face a serious revival of an effort to change the Senate rules forbidding filibusters on nominations.

Finally there will be an entire array of budgetary and fiscal issues which will demand action in the late summer including the debt ceiling and the FY 2014 spending bills. Ironically, as the economy improves there will eventually be increased revenue which in turn will produce more tax revenue. Politically, this means that an improved economy certainly will play better for the Democrats in the fall of 2014 elections than obstructive Republican actions which will produce annoyance, frustration, and anger.

The major question which continues to be inexplicable is whose advice is driving much of this Republican stalling action in Congress and ideological battling against the Democrats and even among themselves. While the best scenario for the GOP will be some legislative gains in the 2014, there is little sense that the Party is really focused on how difficult it will be for them to regain the White House without a dramatic outreach to all the constituencies which feel disconnected to the Republican Party. There just seems to be so little willingness to face the reality of today’s politics. Obstruction is not only not creative, it is also no way to govern. It is also highly unlikely to win national elections.

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