Republicans Have The Power, But Can’t Govern The Nation

By Susan Kuebler

One would think that after eight years wandering in the political wilderness under the Obama administration, the Republican legislators in the House and Senate would be primed and ready once they assumed control of both houses in January of this year.

Not only do they control the legislative branch of government, but they have a willing tool occupying the White House as well.  However, since taking over they have achieved only one – one – major victory.  The appointment of Neil Goresuch to the Supreme Court.  And they had to destroy the centuries-old tradition of the Senate filibuster in order to accomplish even that.

The House finally managed to pass a mangled version of their “replacement” for Obamacare which now languishes in the Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to ditch his plans for a vote on the bill before the July 4th recess because he simply did not have the 50 votes needed to pass it.  It is not certain he will have the necessary votes before the August recess. And what does the leader of the GOP, the President of the United States have to say about it:

The “beautiful new HealthCare bill” is one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation in recent memory.  Trump wants the Republican Party to approve a bill that only about 18% of the U.S. population likes.  The reason it hasn’t passed is because there are some GOP Senators, especially those facing re-election in 2018, who have decided that this is not the hill they want to die on.

If Trump thought healthcare was hard, then he has NO idea how difficult re-writing the tax code is going to be.  Speaker Paul Ryan, and former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, recently said he wanted 2018 to begin with a new tax code in place.  Ryan must be engaging in some magical thinking.  If they can’t get a “repeal and replace” on Obamacare accomplished after seven months in power, how on earth do they think they will be able to pass massive tax legislation in the five months remaining in the year.

Then Trump had the audacity to blame the Democrats for obstructing his appointments.

It’s not the Democrats who are to blame for this but the White House.  The Senate cannot consider any nominee until the necessary paperwork has been filed.  And a reminder Mr. Trump, it’s not the Democrats who confirmed 48 of your nominees, it’s the Republicans.  You have a two-seat majority in the Senate, so the Dems can’t stop you.  And where are all the appointments you could be making that don’t require Senate confirmation?  The world wonders.

If the Democrats were slowing things down and obstructing, it’s only because they are copying the playbook that the Republicans in the Senate used for the entire Obama administration.  Remember when your new best buddy Senator Ted Cruz tried to shut down the entire government by reading “Green Eggs and Ham” from the Senate floor?

Recently Mitch McConnell raised a radical idea – that in order to pass healthcare reform it might require a “bipartisan” effort in the Senate.  Not so very long ago, at least within the memory of this writer, the term “bipartisan” was not a dirty word on Capitol Hill.  Republicans and Democrats might be opponents, but they were not enemies.  They could debate for hours on a particular issue, then go out for a drink together at the end of the day.

That is called “governing.”  As long ago as 1850, Senator Henry Clay from Kentucky used these words in a speech about the need for compromise:

“It has been objected against this measure that it is a compromise.  It has been said that it is a compromise of principle, or of a principle.  Mr. President, what is a compromise?  It is a work of mutual concession – an agreement in which there are reciprocal stipulations – a work in which, for the sake of peace and concord, one party abates his extreme demands in consideration of the abatement of extreme demands by the other party: it is a measure of mutual concession – a measure of mutual sacrifice.”

At the time, Senator Clay was seeking to avoid a Civil War over slavery.  To some measure, he succeeded – for a time.  But any student of American politics, and one would hope that the men and women representing us in Congress have some familiarity with it, knows that sometimes compromise, a mutual give-and-take between both parties, is required for the good of the country.

Politics is an art, not the blood sport as some in Washington wish to believe.  If McConnell and Ryan squander this opportunity to govern our nation by using their majority to vent their frustrations at the Democrats for the last eight years, they are doing their party and the country a disservice.  They need to seek out bipartisanship whenever possible.

By inviting the Democrats to the table, or at least giving them a voice in the conversation, they would engage the entire country in governing.  They have the opportunity to end the tit-for-tat retaliation that has gone on far too long.  Both sides are equally to blame, but the GOP can make a difference now.

Power is meaningless if one does not know how to use it.  Power is dangerous if used solely to benefit one party or group.  Governing is not using a sledgehammer on your opponents  Governing is engaging in compromise; governing is the art of the “possible.”

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