Filibustering as voters burn

In one of the great implosions in congressional history, Senate Republicans are turning the great deliberative body into a banana republic insti­tution, and turning electoral disadvantage into an electoral debacle in 2008 that grows more ominous for Republicans everyday.

It is astounding that with Americans so deeply hungering for an end to the gridlock and antagonism in Washington, Senate Republicans filibuster everything except the morning prayer, with obstructionism that is reminiscent of the most segregationist Senators of the antebellum and pre-civil rights South.

With Americans deeply concerned about the future of their jobs, the health of their kids, the safety of our troops, the protection of our planet, the price of our oil, and even the danger of toys to our children during the holiday season, the Senate Republicans boast of their negative power to blockade any hope of change.

Which Republican strategist tells Republican leaders to filibuster to the death proposals to improve the health of American children, and then filibuster to the death proposals to end giant tax breaks to the oil industry when voters are outraged by rip-off prices for gasoline and home heating oil? With Americans deeply concerned about skyrocketing home foreclosures and the real danger of recession, which Republican strategist tells Republican leaders to filibuster even a bill that provides more counseling to struggling homeowners that is supported by many Republicans?

Whether the logic behind this self-destructive strategy is Jungian, Freudian, Nixonian, or merely the dumbest political plan concocted in generations, consider the playing field for the elections of 2008 and 2010:

In both 2008 and 2010 there are far more Republicans running for reelection than Democrats, with some three-fourths of all Republican seats in jeopardy in those two elections. The prospect of more than 60 Democratic Senators is increasingly probable by 2010, if not 2008. Polls that show a large majority of voters hostile to Congress give Democrats a 10- to 14-point advantage over Republicans.

The Democratic fundraising advantage is huge, and growing from the presidential campaign to the House and Senate campaign committees. Even many conservative business interests are giving heavily to Democrats.

Many of the most respected (and electable) Senate Republicans are so alienated by the gridlock, nastiness and hyper-partisanship of the Senate that they are lining up to leave, turning swing seats into Democratic seats, and safe seats into contested seats.

The most humiliated Republican senator, enduring allegations of bathroom scandal, desperately clings to his seat, while one of the Senate’s most respected Republican leaders desperately leaves long before his term ends. Republicans are losing senators of the caliber of Chuck Hagel, John Warner, Pete Domenici and Trent Lott. This is like the 1927 Yankees losing Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the rest of Murderers Row.

Republicans are losing a generation of leaders who are the very kind of senators that voters want and elect, and taking the very kind of actions that voters most loathe and despise about low-road politics in Washington.

When they were in control of the Senate, Republicans destroyed the essence of their constitutional duty by submitting to a disastrous president, as the worst of the Roman senators capitulated to the worst of the Roman emperors. Now, they turn the Senate into a Roman circus with a calculated nihilism designed to destroy the Senate’s capability to act on anything, in ways alien to our democracy, and hostile to the prayers of our people.

Like Nero, the Republicans filibuster while the voters burn. Either they will get on the program for change, or be swept away by a tidal wave of history.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then-chief deputy whip of the House. He can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net and read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog.

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