When Americans elect representatives in government, they assume they will be successful at governing within the system and not interfere with or impede the government from functioning. For a little over four years, Republican lawmakers failed to comprehend that voters did not send them to Washington to hinder normal government operations, but that has been their primary goal because an African American sits in the Oval Office, and rightly earned them the designation as the party of no. Whether it was President Obama’s efforts to save the economy and create jobs, or choosing members of his cabinet, Republicans found some reason to obstruct this President and they were back, and promising to obstruct confirmation of two presidential nominees to serve in high-level positions.
Shortly after the President nominated Thomas E. Perez to be the next Labor Secretary, and Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), two Republican senators immediately signaled their intent to block their confirmations. One might assume the President’s choices rankled Republicans because the nominees were radical extremists with ties to al Qaeda, but when obstruction for obstruction’s sake is their only reason for serving in government, any fantastical reason suffices to block the President’s choices.
Within an hour of the President naming Perez as Labor Secretary, Senator David Vitter said he would prevent his confirmation until the Justice Department responded to a 2011 letter asserting they were lax in enforcing national voting rights laws which is remarkably ironic coming from a Republican. Vitter, a Louisiana senator, demanded to know why the DOJ dismissed a case of voter intimidation involving a lone member of the New Black Panthers Party who stood at a polling place to monitor voter intimidation in Philadelphia. He also was incensed that the DOJ (and Perez) pressured Louisiana’s secretary of state to comply with the law and provide voter registration forms at certain government offices; especially those serving low-income Americans. Vitter’s assertion is that Perez and the DOJ were not consistent in enforcing the National Voter Registration Act, but it is difficult to comprehend the connection between a Black man wearing a beret monitoring a polling place, and non-compliance with a federal law by Louisiana’s secretary of state to prevent low-income Louisianans from registering to vote. Obviously, it cannot possibly involve racism or disenfranchising minority voters.
The President’s choice to head the EPA, Gina McCarthy, raised the ire of Senator Roy Blunt because in 2006 under the Bush administration, the Army Corps of Engineers blew up a levee on the Mississippi river as a flood control measure, so Blunt said he will prevent McCarthy’s confirmation until he gets an update on progress to repair the levee. It is unclear how, or why, Blunt conflates McCarthy’s EPA tenure that began in 2009 as head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation with the Army Corps of Engineer’s actions in 2006 when she was commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, but reason and logic are never part of the GOP’s obstructionist tactics. The idea is to confound this President with or without legitimate reasons to obstruct a nominee, and failing to come up with a valid concern or question about their qualifications, Republicans fabricate a reason even if it occurred during the Bush administration and is unrelated to the nominee’s appointment.
Throughout the President’s tenure, Republicans have raised false concerns about every nominee and judicial appointment to the point that instead of listing the nominees and appointees they have obstructed, it is easier to cite those they did not obstruct; John Kerry. Kerry was easily confirmed without objection because Republican chose him to be Secretary of State, and as long as this President allows Republicans to run the government and choose who serves in high-level positions, the confirmation process moves quickly through the Senate. Typically and historically, the duly-elected President gets to choose his own cabinet members, department heads, and federal judges, but this is the 21st century, and either Senate Republicans decide who serves in government from their minority position, or they will block, place holds, and obstruct nominees and appointees regardless the Constitution or results of two elections.
Over the course of the past two-and-a-half months, Republicans have used Benghazi, drones, and now a levee and lone African American with a beret to hold up the President’s nominees to serve as Secretary of Defense, CIA director, Labor Secretary, and head of the EPA for no other reason than obstructing the President and the government. It is no small coincidence that every single high-profile position in the President’s administration has been blocked, held, obstructed, or warrants a special investigation by Republicans in the Senate, and it is not because they are radical extremists or pose an existential threat to America, but because Republicans have to block the President to prevent the government from operating and serving the people.
It is time to cite the real problem, and reason, Washington is dysfunctional and government is ineffective, and it is not poor personnel choices by the President, it is Republicans refusal to accept the results of two elections coupled with their belief that they control the African American in the Oval Office and run the government, and if he fails to comply, they will block and obstruct. The problem is not isolated to Senate Republicans either, because House Republicans refuse to allow a vote on any matter that does not eliminate anti-poverty programs, slash domestic spending, kill jobs, or raise much-needed revenue to run the government, but they will push entitlements for the rich and impose religious edicts on women and gays with ferocity and single-minded determination.
Republicans have distinguished themselves as the most ineffectual Congress in a century, if not in America’s history, through their obstructionism and inability to govern, or serve the people who elected them. They have, though, managed to say no, block, and attempted to prevent anyone from governing effectively, and used their deviance to find absurd reasons to keep government from working. As incompetent and worthless as congressional Republicans have been over the past four years, at least they are efficacious at something, but saying no, blocking progress, and obstruction for obstruction’s sake is not why they were sent to Washington. The media, Democrats, and especially President Obama need to tell the American people why government is not working, but only if Republicans give them permission to speak without citing deficit reduction and entitlement reform.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.
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