Will Senate Democrats Reenable Democracy?

Dave Johnson

Senate Democrats on Tuesday will choose whether to finally put an end to Republican filibuster obstruction of everything. In particular Republicans are obstructing appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in an effort to shut down these agencies that protect working people and consumers from predatory corporations.

NLRB and CFPB

The nominees to two agencies in particular are being blocked in an effort to knock the agencies out.

The NLRB protects working people, but cannot operate without at least three of its five board members in place. With the agency out of operation, employers are able to violate labor rules with impunity, and this is the reason business groups are leading the effort to keep nominees from being confirmed. They want to break these rules, pay people less and steal due wages, fire people for trying to organize labor unions and other schemes and scams to break the back of any ability for working people to have better lives.

The CFPB is a new agency that protects consumers from financial scams. This agency exists because of the Wall Street reform legislation (that Republicans tried to block). The agency can’t operate until someone is confirmed to head it up, and now Republicans are refusing to confirm anyone who is nominated.

The Terrible Obstruction Of Democracy

The voters are supposed to have a say in how this country is run, but for several years now it hasn’t mattered a whit what the public wants. Republicans have been filibustering almost every bill and nominee for some time. Nominees to the courts, agencies, even cabinet departments have been blocked. Blocked bills are too numerous to count, but include the DREAM Act, the Bring Jobs Home Act and the American Jobs Act. And the threat of a filibuster has blocked so many other bills from being considered, like the Employee Free Choice Act.

This is democracy thwarted. This is not how our system is supposed to work. This obstruction has demoralized the public, causing many to lose faith and hope.

The Democrats’ Choice

Democrats have a choice to changer Senate rules and stop the filibusters. They could vote to return to the days of “make them talk” – which is what the public thinks the filibuster is anyway. The recent Texas filibuster shows the power of a talking filibuster. When the majority is attempting to do something that goes too far, a talking filibuster can get attention and rally people to contact their Senators and weigh in. They might support the majority, or might pressure the Senate to stop what it is doing. Either way the talking filibuster is a device that slows things down so people can rally. It helps protect the rights of the majority while not just keeping the Senate from operating.

But it is much more likely that Democrats – if they do anything – will just end the filibuster for nominees. It is even more likely that they will just end the filibuster for some but not all nominees.

There is a chance of another obstruction-enabling “deal.” Republicans might try to avert the vote to end the filibuster by confirming a few nominees, and then when things calm down just continuing to block everything and everyone. Meanwhile Democrats say they don’t want to go too far and just end the obstruction, because they might lose the Senate majority, and then Republicans can stop them from using the filibuster.

But who is kidding who? Of course the current crop of radical Republicans would end the filibuster the day they get control of the Senate.

So let your senators know that the obstruction must stop. Democracy must be reenabled so the country can at least take small steps forward again.

Please visit Fix The Senate Now

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