By now it shouldn’t be a surprise to most Americans that the United States Congress has entered an unprecedented era of dysfunction and inaction. Time and again, analysts have termed the 113th as the least productive Congress in history, and with a full month of August recess and precious few months in the term, that sad streak is unlikely to be reversed.
But what most Americans don’t know is that there are very specific cause for that inaction, and they cannot be blamed on President Obama or divided government.
When the President is of one Party and one or both Houses of Congress of another, it’s natural to expect some grandstanding, inflamed rhetoric, and yes a few “show votes” that have no realistic chance of becoming law. These are common occurrences of divided government. But when that division is happening within a Party, it has reached a level that can become harmful to the nation. And such is the case with members of the Republican caucus. Ever since taking the House majority in 2011, GOP Representatives have worked tirelessly to make President Obama the most hated man in the country. They block his initiatives at every turn, even when he’s putting forth ideas that they agree with.
It was this week in Washington that brought Republican division to another level. The GOP’s latest “blame Obama” tactic is to wage frivolous lawsuits against the President for taking executive actions, claiming that he is trying to circumvent Congressional authority. By doing this action, it would suggest that House Republicans want Obama to STOP issuing Executive Orders, right? Sure, that’s what they wanted until yesterday. Here’s more on the madness from Steve Benen of the Maddow Blog, because I can’t even explain it well enough…
Even by congressional standards, the mixed message from Capitol Hill this week was jarring. On Wednesday, House Republicans approved a civil suit against President Obama – the first such suit in American history – complaining that the White House shouldn’t circumvent Congress when making public policy.Literally one day later, House Republicans killed their own border bill, prompting GOP leaders to issue a statement urging the White House to circumvent Congress.On msnbc’s “Morning Joe,” Eugene Robinson asked Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a close ally to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), to help reconcile the contradiction. The Republican congressman’s response was striking. For those who can’t watch clips online:
ROBINSON: There was a contradiction yesterday that I’m still struggling to understand. The leadership statement, when the [border bill] didn’t pass essentially said, ‘Well, there are plenty of administrative things that President Obama can do and should be doing at the border, and that was a day after the House voted to sue President Obama for taking administrative actions.COLE: (Laughs)ROBINSON: So, how does that square?COLE: Well, I’m not going to disagree with you because it’s a point I made myself in conference. Look, you can’t say on the one hand that the president’s overreaching by acting without legislative authority and direction, and then refuse to give him legislative authority and direction in another area. So, I don’t disagree with what you have to say at all.
Well, at least Congressman Cole is smart enough to figure it out.
Even the darkest times in recent partisan gridlock, like the Clinton-era shutdowns or impeachment proceedings, the one thing we could count on in divided government was for opposing sides to agree on some goals for their particular side. And even when they did draw attack lines for the election, those former Congressional sessions at least knew that some things had to get done, like infrastructure investments or disaster relief. But for this newest iteration of the GOP, all works of government are viewed as not necessary. Have they just decided to wait until the bridges actually collapse?
Democrats are far from perfect. There is plenty of disagreement and election-year politics to go around in that Party, and we see it every day. But the Republicans have reached a new, terrifying level of divisive behavior that, if left unchecked, could ruin the country. The only way to stop them in their tracks is to vote for Democrats in 2014. If this week’s antics are any indication, there’s only one sane option left on Capitol Hill, and it ain’t the GOP.