During the presidency of Barack Obama (perhaps you remember him), it was a common liberal trope to decry Republicans’ actions “obstructionist.” One would often hear that no president in the history of presidents ever had to face such obstruction to their agenda in the two houses of Congress, as if compromise were not only virtuous, but an obligatory action of government.
To take it a step further, one might even hear that the recalcitrance of Congress was not just unfair, but was “un-American.” In 2010, then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that one of his main goals was to make president Obama a one-term president. This comment was met with shock and derision as if one of the principal goals of every opposition party since the dawn of time was not to engineer their own victory at the expense of their political foes.
However, it was never mentioned that no one in Congress, including members of the president’s own party, has any obligation to vote either way on any provision or even vote in the first place. There is no constitutional provision that demands a vote on any matter or with any degree of speed. It is the prerogative of any party leader to put pressure on their opponents by voting no or not voting at all.
In fact, since the legislative and executive branches are equal, there is no obligation to vote on anything the president has set forth as a legislation promise to the American people at all. Such is the nature of our constitutional system. The framers of the constitution specifically set our system of legislation out to be a long, arduous process where not much gets done. That’s the point of the system. Congress was never meant to be passing bill after bill; broad consensus was supposed to be the only thing to break the gridlock.
But Barack Obama is no longer in office, Donald Trump is. So where does that leave us on the topic of obstruction? It will leave any cynic thoroughly unsurprised that it seems the Democrats in Washington have made a complete about face on this topic.
The word “resistance” seems to come up a lot, a word that imbues virtue onto the person who uses it without having to do much of anything specifically virtuous. The difference between obstruction and resistance in congress is unclear. To me, they seem to be the exact same thing.
And my point is, Congress has every right to use any means within their power to forward their agenda. Granted, the Democrats hold minorities in both the House and Senate so their power is somewhat limited. However, where they feel it’s necessary, they should obstruct if they so desire.
This brings us to another liberal pet peeve of the Obama administration that is starting to look pretty tantalizing to the Democrats: the filibuster.When a party holds a minority, especially a fairly substantial one, their only hope to stop legislation in its tracks is to filibuster.
It wasn’t very long ago that the Republicans held minorities in both houses of Congress. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was roundly mocked for filibustering in 2013 by reading “Green Eggs And Ham” on the Senate floor in order to stop the Affordable Care Act.
Maybe now the filibuster will start to seem much more appealing. The chickens seem to be coming home to roost in more ways than one. Not only will the filibuster and obstruction by any means be on the table for the Democrats in the next four years, the nuclear option so loved by former Senator Harry Reid may be coming back to bite them.
Politics is a contact sport, and each party should use every available means to stop their opponent’s agenda. The Trump presidency is beginning to take shape and with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the legislature is going to be more and more involved in the process.
It remains to be seen what strategies either party will use to attempt to further their principles, but I have a feeling it will be filled with irony.
It already is: Donald Trump, a member of the party who fought so hard against President Obama’s agenda on ideological grounds, tweeted not so long ago complaining that the Democrats would hold up all of his nominees for completely political reasons.
They have every right to do so.
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