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Do voters really care about GOP "obstruction"?

The question comes to mind in light of the news that GOP Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas pulled an extraordinarly cynical maneuver to block a House Dem jobs bill that would have boosted investments in science, research and training programs.

In essence, he added a provision to the bill that forced Dems to choose between scrapping the bill and appearing to vote for porn:

Republicans included a provision that would bar the federal government from paying the salaries of employees who've been disciplined for viewing pornography at work.

To proceed with the bill and bring it to a final vote, Democrats would have had to vote against the motion to recommit, and against the porn ban.

That's damn clever -- as nakedly obstructionist a move as you could dream up. And it's not the first time, either. As Think Progress notes, Republicans have repeatedly used sex-related amendments to cause the gears of government to seize up.

It couldn't be more obvious what the intent of these moves is. Yet is there any evidence voters care? Dems have spent the past year highlighting this kind of stuff. And polls show that voters agree that Republicans are not interested in good faith cooperation with Obama and Dems.

Yet there's no evidence that there's any correlation between this and the political fortunes of the parties. Polls show that Dems hold a small edge at best over the GOP in the generic ballot matchup -- even though Republicans have far lower favorability ratings.

Just as voters don't care about bipartisanship for its own sake, it seems likely that they just tune out the constant railing about GOP obstruction as so much Beltway white noise. Perhaps it only encourages a sense that Washington is dysfunctional, souring voters even more on government -- and on both parties, including the one that's running the place.

Maybe the only way to win is to persuade voters your policies are better.

By Greg Sargent  |  May 14, 2010; 4:50 PM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , House Dems , House GOPers  
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Comments

What's that old saying? "All's fair in love, war, and politics." The public is not so naive as to believe that only one party plays this game. "Obstruction" IS politics, isn't it?

Posted by: sbj3 | May 14, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Good post, Greg.

And to this point: "It couldn't be more obvious what the intent of these moves is. Yet is there any evidence voters care? Dems have spent the past year highlighting this kind of stuff. And polls show that voters agree that Republicans are not interested in good faith cooperation with Obama and Dems."

This is KEY. The slowly unfolding argument in the Obama administration is that government can work for positive change in people's lives. The GOP will do anything to fight this. It's a matter of "principle," if such a word even applies here.

So, if people aren't noticing or aren't convinced by these kinds of GOP antics, what does it take? I don't have the answer, but I'd suggest to the WH that they need to prioritize this and find a way to break through the GOP narrative.

This isn't going away.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 14, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Actually Greg, I blame the Dems. As Rachel Maddow has pointed out several times, there is nothing in the Constitution that says you need 60 votes. It's 50 + 1. The Dems should be using 51 for Cloture and everything they want to do. What could Republicans do about that? Nothing! They can't sue. They can't call the police and have the Dems arrested. The Senate makes it's own rules. If Republicans can take back the House and Senate someday and they're stupid enough to keep the 60 vote requirement then, that's their right but, no one has been able to explain to my why Dems continue to allow them to block everything WHEN THEY MAKE THEIR OWN RULES!

Posted by: roxsteady | May 14, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Let me steal something from Chris Bowers and alter it:

"Do you disapprove of the way the congress is doing its job?

"Democrats control congress.

"In Washington, DC, Democrats have a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

"Do you disapprove of the way congress is doing its job?

"Democrats control congress."
-------------
"As long as voters both disapprove of the way congress is doing its job and...[realize] that Democrats have control of congress, Democrats are never going to [win by whining about obstruction]."

http://mydd.com/2006/2/20/our-message-in-2006-republicans-control-congress

Posted by: sbj3 | May 14, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

sbj3 is right for the majority of people who are mostly low information voters. Wonks that actually understand the defacto difficulty of running congress with an opposition party that is dedicated to obstruct and score political points are a small minority of voters.

Of course the MSM is doing its typical horrible job of explaining how congress actually works, which doesn't help.

Posted by: srw3 | May 14, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

@srw3: "Wonks that actually understand the defacto difficulty of running congress with an opposition party that is dedicated to obstruct and score political points are a small minority of voters."

I don't even agree with that. I think most folks understand that both parties "obstruct and score political points" so they don't let the party in power use that as an excuse.

Posted by: sbj3 | May 14, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if it's so much that people don't care as that they don't know. Did any of the nightly news shows do a story about this cynical GOP obstruction ploy? I didn't see any. I've now gone back and looked online at the past week's worth of network news programs and saw no mention of this.

How is the average citizen supposed to know enough about these things to "care" if the media (particulary network news) does not do its job in informing the public?

Posted by: mpl2 | May 14, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse


The problem isn't in persuading the public whose policies are better, the problem is a dysfunctional legislative body where the minority can prevent the majority party from doing the job they were elected to do.

The filibuster, this year alone, has been used more than (2008 and 2009 combined) any other time in history. It is unprecedented. In order to pass anything, now, requires a super-majority of 60 rather than a majority of 50.

But it only takes 1 senator to stop the legislative process on a dime. The "secret-hold" allows a senator to anonymously put a hold on a bill for any reason or none at all. Today the senate passed a bill that would have gotten rid of that, but Jim DeMint (R) added an amendment that essentially left it in-tact while proclaiming he supported getting rid of the secret hold. But he is known for using the secret-hold quite often so it is not surprising, however, it doesn't make it right; it is still hypocritical and dishonest.

Furthermore it is difficult to trust Republicans when they co-sponsor legislation, but right before it comes up for a vote they remove their names and vote against it -- their own legislation. Then they go on TV to complain about the lack of bi-partisanship.

Getting Republicans on board is impossible. The time and effort put into coaxing them along is counterproductive. Even if the Democrats gave into every demand (already tried and failed policies) they are simply not going to compromise, negotiate or contribute in any way.



If they cannot stop a piece of legislation they will make darn sure the end product is a diluted unpalatable and less effective version of the original bill such as: a watered down stimulus bill with tax cuts and less money; a weaker healthcare reform act without a public option; a woefully inadequate financial regulation reform bill still waiting for a vote; a climate/energy bill put on hold and in peril because 1 senator got his feelings hurt; and the most recent bill failed to pass because 1 senator objected to raising the liability from $75 million to $10 billion on oil companies. What about personal responsibility apparently the oil companies, the financial industry, Wall Street are exempt. It is up to the taxpayers to bail them out.

We know the Republicans don't like to govern. But they like winning elections. So they have a vested interest in preventing the Democrats success. The senate allows them to do just that.

So you can see it is not a matter of persuasion, it is a matter of a broken dysfunctional system in need of repair. Therein is the problem.


Posted by: serena1313 | May 15, 2010 2:32 AM | Report abuse

It's a disgusting situation and basically boils down to the most unethical Republicans in that party's history taking advantage of the most gullible and ignorant in the electorate (which is the majority of the electorate--or at least, of "likely voters willing to participate in polls").

Posted by: pasc1 | May 15, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

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