It’s not unusual to hear dirty hippie liberal blogger types (and the occasional lefty Nobel Prize winner) point out that today’s GOP has effectively abdicated the role of functional opposition party, instead opting for a kind of post-policy nihilism in which sabotaging the Obama agenda has become its only guiding governing light.
But when you hear this sort of argument coming from Chuck Todd, the mild-mannered, well respected Beltway insider, it should prompt folks to take notice.
That’s essentially what Todd, along with Mark Murray and the rest of MSNBC’s First Read crew, argued this morning. It’s worth quoting at length:
Here’s a thought exercise on this summer morning: Imagine that after the controversial Medicare prescription-drug legislation was passed into law in 2003, Democrats did everything they could to thwart one of George W. Bush’s top domestic achievements. They launched Senate filibusters to block essential HHS appointees from administering the law; they warned the sports and entertainment industries from participating in any public service announcements to help seniors understand how the law works; and, after taking control of the House of Representatives in 2007, they used the power of the purse to prohibit any more federal funds from being used to implement the law. As it turns out, none of that happened. And despite Democratic warnings that the law would be a bust — we remember the 2004 Dem presidential candidates campaigning against it — the Medicare prescription-drug law has been, for the most part, a pretty big success.
But that thought exercise has become a reality 10 years later as Republicans have worked to thwart/stymie/sabotage — pick your word — the implementation of President Obama’s health-care and financial-reform laws.
Recently, the top-two Senate Republicans — Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn — wrote a letter to the NFL and other major sports leagues warning them not to participate in any campaign to promote implementation of Obamacare. The Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity is in unchartered waters running TV ads to help prevent the law from being implemented, while the Obama political arm is also on the air promoting implementation. And Senate Republicans have vowed to filibuster any nominee (no matter how qualified) to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the financial-reform law. [...]
And this all raises the question: What’s the line between fighting for your ideology and ensuring that the government that pays your salaries actually works — or even attempts to work? At some point, governing has to take place, but when does that begin? We know what opponents will say in response to this: These are bad laws, and we have to do whatever it takes to stop them. But at what point does an election have a governing consequence?
For more on that effort by top Republicans to warn the NFL off of participating in any campaign to promote Obamacare, see Jonathan Bernstein’s piece.
This from MSNBC’s First Read crew is very well said. But I’d take it further; it goes well beyond Obamacare implementation and the relentless blockading of Obama nominees for the explicit purpose of preventing democratically-created agencies from functioning. We’ve slowly crossed over into something a bit different. It’s now become accepted as normal that Republicans will threaten explicitly to allow harm to the country to get what they want, and will allow untold numbers of Americans to be hurt rather than even enter into negotiations over the sort of compromises that lie at the heart of basic governing.
Sam Stein’s big piece today details the very real toll the sequester cuts are taking on real people across the country, and crucially, it explains that the sequester was deliberately designed to threaten harm in order to compel lawmakers to act to reduce the deficit. But Republicans will not consider replacing those cuts with anything other than 100 percent in cuts elsewhere, which is to say, they will only consider replacing them with 100 percent of what they want. Meanwhile, Republicans are drawing up a list of spending cuts they will demand in exchange for raising the debt limit, even though John Boehner has openly admitted that default would do untold damage to the U.S. economy. Indeed, even if default doesn’t end up happening, the threat of it risks damaging the economy, yet Republicans still insist they will use it as leverage to get what they want, anyway.
As Todd and the First Read crew hint at, the GOP campaign against Obamacare is straying into this mode of governing. Indeed, on Meet the Press this weekend, Todd made this even more explicit, accusing Republicans of “trying to sabotage the law.” The current GOP campaign isn’t just about opposing the Affordable Care Act or arguing for its repeal. It’s about making it harder for uninsured Americans to gain access to coverage under a law passed and signed by a democratically elected Congress and President, and upheld by the Supreme Court, in service of the political goal of making it a greater liability for Democrats in the 2014 elections (the law, after all, isn’t going to get repealed).
This is not typical opposition, and its good to hear this stated outright by someone as respected inside the Beltway as Chuck Todd. The only mystery is why more journalists aren’t willing to point it out. After all, Republicans are making this basic reality harder and harder to ignore.