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January 25, 2005
Senate Democrats Extend Obstructionism To Cabinet Appointments

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid apparently learned nothing from his predecessor's defeat in last year's elections. The Democratic minority has decided to express its frustration at the marginalization they inflicted upon themselves by imbibing in the hair of the dog that bit them:

Trying to show that they remain a force despite their reduced numbers, Senate Democrats on Monday threatened new hurdles for President Bush's cabinet choices and expressed deep misgivings about the planned Social Security changes at the heart of this year's Republican agenda.

Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said he was mulling whether to try to stall consideration of Michael O. Leavitt, Mr. Bush's choice for health secretary, unless Mr. Dorgan was guaranteed a vote on allowing importation of cheaper prescription drugs.

In addition, a growing number of Democrats are raising issues about the selection of Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, a nomination initially headed for quick approval.

The political problems for the nominees arose after Democrats last week blocked a quick vote on the approval of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state. As many as a dozen Democrats intend to use the Senate floor on Tuesday as a platform to lay out their objections to Ms. Rice, tying her to what they see as the administration's mistakes in Iraq.

"The honeymoon is over and we are now in the full throes of our new marital arrangement here," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, after he and other Democratic leaders introduced a priority list on Monday sharply at odds with that put forward by Republicans.

Dorgan's baldly obvious quid pro quo underscores the Democratic approach to "advise and consent" that they have developed over the past four years. Even when a nominee passes through committe on a bipartisan vote -- Rice won recommendation 16-2 -- they intend on hijacking the process, delaying the transition, in order to score some cheap hours for debate. North Dakotans in particular should pay attention to Dorgan's cheap theatrics and extortionate techniques; they voted to support Bush and his agenda by 27 points, and their representative continues to block their will. Dorgan runs for re-election in 2006, and North Dakotans should start considering their options.

In fact, the entire exercise smacks of a desperate need to remain relevant. Tantrums like these lead to stupid mistakes, like having an ex-Klansman like Robert Byrd block a confirmation vote on the first black female Secretary of State. Have the Democrats decided to become Dixiecrats again in 2005? No, although they have no excuse for the long tenure of Byrd, who should have been dumped decades ago. They merely see no other way to get their names in the paper:

Yet they also demonstrated a willingness to use procedural weapons to make their points, even at the risk of being branded obstructionists.

In some respects, said one Democratic lawmaker who asked not to be named because his words were so blunt, they have little choice given their predicament as the party far out of power. "The truth is, you have no place else to go when your back is against the wall," he said.

The truth is that their backs are against the wall precisely because of these stupid and pointless gestures. In the end, Rice, Gonzalez, Leavitt, and others will win confirmation, probably by acclamation or at least a significantly bipartisan vote. So instead of just getting on with business and applying procedural brakes on bills, where the practice could be justified, they uselessly block nominations in order to opine endlessly on their rants of the day. Does the Senate really need an hour of Byrd's bloviations or Barbara Boxer's bawling?

An even better question: do the Democrats? Mature and wise leadership would advise against conducting ridiculous and embarrassing spectacles such as these. Harry Reid, in his short tenure as Minority Leader has demonstrated a lack of capacity for either quality. The obstructionism rejected soundly by voters across the nation in 2004 will once again be before them in 2006, and Reid may find himself the leader of a much smaller minority after that election if this keeps up.

CORRECTION: Dorgan just got re-elected. ND's Senator up for re-election is Conrad (D), not Dorgan. I'd say that North Dakotans need to keep a close eye on both Senators, and issue their mandate in Conrad's re-election bid.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 25, 2005 6:04 AM

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» Democratic Party Almost Irrelevant from Powerpundit
The Democrats are intent upon turning "advise and consent" into "obstruct, obstruct and obstruct more." For no good reason, other than to say "we are still here and relevant!" They might still be here, but their relevance is very rapidly going to dissi... [Read More]

Tracked on January 25, 2005 6:44 AM

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