It’s time to stop being surprised that Senate Republicans are not listening to Americans. On January 31, 51 Senate Republicans officially stated that they are opposed to calling new witnesses for the trial of President Donald Trump, even though 75 percent of Americans believe otherwise. This includes 49 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Independents, and 95 percent of Democrats.
This is just the most recent chapter in Senate Republicans’ ignorance of what their constituents want. Democrats in the House of Representatives have passed legislation supported by over three-quarters of the country, legislation that the Republicans in the Senate refuse to even bring to the debate floor. This included multiple universal background check bills, supported by 89 percent of Americans, and bills allowing the government negotiate with drug companies to lower the costs of prescription drugs, supported by 86 percent of Americans.
Congress is not broken. It has simply been disabled in its most fundamental duties of procedure. Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is actively killing the Senate’s ability to function as anything other than a judicial appointment factory. There is no meaningful oversight, no meaningful legislation, and no deliberation coming out of what is supposedly the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”
It’s entirely reasonable to assume that the legislative priorities of a Republican-held chamber of Congress would differ from a Democrat-held chamber, but not to the extent that there would be a de facto party-enforced blockade of legislation. Over the same period the House of Representatives passed nearly 450 pieces of legislation, the Senate only passed a hundred. Senator McConnell is even bragging about this and has been calling himself the “Grim Reaper” of all Democratic bills. In his statement he said that he would ensure that “socialism doesn’t land on the president's desk,” yet many of the bills he is keeping from passing aren’t socialist. They have the support of a broad majority of voters, and would improve the lives of millions of Americans. This is why Congress has a 23 percent approval rating.
To call the gridlock in Washington a bipartisan problem is to enable its source. Even when one party controlled the presidency and both branches of Congress from 2017 to 2018, its members could not commit to their most prominent campaign promise—the repeal of the Affordable Care Act—and the only meaningful legislation to come out of the 115th Congress was a massive tax cut to the wealthy and to corporations. Senator McConnell wins when voters see both parties as equally dysfunctional and equally corrupt.
Congress is not broken. Mitch McConnell broke it. He’s been breaking it since he pledged to make President Obama a one term president. He’s been breaking it since he refused to hold a single hearing on Merrick Garland. He’s been breaking it since he refused to confirm even lower court judges in the final years of the Obama presidency. Senator McConnell’s unprecedented obstructionism is not new in the Trump era, but it's more brazen than ever. The refusal to have a single witness testify in the trial of the president was just the next logical step. Protecting the president and his Senate majority at any cost has certainly given Mitch many opportunities to live up to his nickname. The Grim Reaper’s next victim appears to be American democracy.
Anna Hickey is a second-year C.L.E.G. major in the School of Public Affairs. She is the Administrative Director and the chief editorial columnist for the Agora, publishing a weekly column on domestic affairs.
Photo courtesy Greater Louisiana Medical Society, Creative Commons