Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
When Barack Obama was elected president, people said they voted for him because he promised to provide needed change in the country. In the year since, many people have expressed frustration that change hasn’t come quickly enough, which is not a surprise.
Republicans have mounted an incredible effort to try to derail the president, and in doing so, have furthered inflamed the nation’s angst. Republicans have spread their dire prophecies of doom and gloom about health care, the economy and just about anything else the president has supported. They have consistently derided Obama’s plans and refused to work with him — and then they blame him.
That is the Republicans’ political strategy. If they are able to defeat necessary change, they can blame the Democrats and try to make big gains in November.
By winning the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, Republicans are crowing victory. No longer will they have to use trumped-up claims to try to win public outrage against legislation. Now they’ll be able to use Senate rules to filibuster and block whatever they want.
Not that they’ve been ineffective in stopping the president’s plans without the filibuster. For example, as Politico.com recently reported, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has used the rules to place a blanket hold on more than 70 presidential nominees, who would fill important government posts. The reason? Shelby wants the Pentagon to change bidding rules for an Air Force refueling plane to help a manufacturer in his state, which would add 1,500 jobs to handle the new business. Shelby also wants the FBI to build a counterterrorism facility in Alabama. Shelby released most of the holds this week after Politico.com and other media got hold of the story, but he continues to block a handful of key Air Force nominations to try to assert pressure on the White House.
That is petty, but it is not uncommon. For nearly 10 months, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., held up the nomination of the head of the General Services Administration, which manages federal real estate, because he wants a new federal building in Kansas City.
Seriously? Isn’t this the party that stirred up public anger over the “backroom deals” in the health care bill?
However, instead of acknowledging the problem, Republicans have attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who put holds on about four dozen White House appointees in 2004. The circumstances, however, were vastly different: Reid did not block Pentagon appointees or judicial nominees from moving forward, and instead of using the holds to negotiate a pet project, he used them to force the president to fill a Democratic seat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, instead of leaving it open and slowing the commission’s work. Reid eventually prevailed and the Bush administration appointed Greg Jaczko, who is now the commission chairman.
Voters are tired of politics as usual. People in Congress should understand that. It was just a few years ago that a Senate leader complained, “The attitude around here has become ‘How can we keep anything from happening?’ ”
Ironically, Republican Trent Lott uttered those words when his party held both the White House and Congress.
Enough is enough. It’s time for Republicans to forsake the attitude they once condemned, go honestly to the negotiating table and work with Democrats to improve the economy and the country.