Where is the Leadership in the Senate?
Most of the focus concerning intra-party battles has been directed at the GOP-controlled House where conservative rebels have dissented from leadership on key pieces of legislation. There’s been less focus on the intra-party dynamic in the Senate, given that Republicans are in the minority and supposedly have no power. However, we need to shed some light on the lack of party discipline in the Senate because they do have the power to stop bad things from passing, even as they lack the votes to advance positive legislation.
Leaders of the minority party in the Senate have one job; they must unite the conference to block negative legislative proposals and executive nominees from the floor. Period. If bad stuff gets an easy run through the committee level and is allowed to obtain a final vote on passage, the minority party will always lose. Hence, the ability of the minority leadership to mount a filibuster is the only thing that makes them more consequential than the minority party in the House.
We already know that only a handful of Senators are committed to reducing the size of government. No, not even two handfuls. Yet, we always thought that a strong national defense was the glue that unified Republicans. Chuck Hagel is the most radical unqualified man to ever be nominated for the job of Secretary of Defense. His embarrassing performance at the confirmation hearing gave Republicans the perfect opportunity to justify their filibuster against this pro-Hamas supporter of Nuclear Zero. If there ever was a low-hanging fruit to filibuster, it was the nomination of Hagel. Yet 18 Republicans voted for cloture today.
If Republicans can’t mount an opposition to a loser like Hagel, what is their purpose for holding office? For all the talk about John Boehner’s failure to muster majority support for bad proposals, where is the leadership in the Senate to coalesce opposition to bad ideas? At least John Boehner publicly owns up to his failures.
This idea that a president is entitled to his nominees, irrespective of their views or qualifications is absurd. Moreover, Democrats have never and will never reciprocate the courtesy. There is no way in hell 18 Democrats would vote to let someone like John Bolton become Secretary of State. We’ve also seen many Republicans offer the “deference to president” argument to justify their support for awful judicial nominees. They are wrong. Any judicial nominee who does not adhere to strict constructionist jurisprudence and a belief that our Constitution in the final word in all matters of law, is someone who should not be appointed to any court.
In other news, 6 Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee voted to confirm leftist Jack Lew as Secretary of Treasury, even though he lied before the committee about the origination of the sequester. They were Orrin Hatch, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, Rob Portman, John Thune, and Pat Toomey. I guess this is what Hatch meant when he promised he’d fight for us on the Senate Finance Committee, if conservatives in Utah would grant him one more term.
Three weeks ago, only 8 GOP Senators agreed to block a bill which greatly expands the original Violence Against Women Act to include protections for homosexuals, transgendered, illegal aliens, and prisoners. The expansion also pushes dangerous infringements on due process, equal protection, and the presumption of innocence for men. All the Democrats need to do is put the word Women in a bill, and they are good to go.
While many Republicans believe that they have no power in Washington, the reality is that they have more leverage – at least in the legislative branch – than the Democrats. With a majority in the House, they have complete control over that body. On the other hand, Democrats do not have complete control over the Senate with just 55 seats. Republicans have the ability to jam Democrats on legislative issues by passing bills in the House while filibustering onerous bills in the Senate. This would provide Republicans with the leverage of controlling the only body that “can pass a bill” in battles over must-pass legislation. Unfortunately, all too often, we’ve seen Senate Republicans working in tandem with Harry Reid to jam the Republican House over the past few years.
There are a number of good opportunities to elect conservatives in red states this year – both opens seats and ones that are occupied by weak incumbents. We have already seen the power of one Ted Cruz in just a few months. It’s time to call for reinforcements.