Memo to the media: They're called "obstructionists"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

That sore-loser phrase doesn't seem to get much use these days. Yet watching Senate Republicans in the minority essentially close down the chamber, not allowing any votes to proceed until their demands are met regarding tax cuts for the very wealthy, I'm pretty sure that fits the working definition of "obstructionist":

One who systematically blocks or interrupts a process, especially one who attempts to impede passage of legislation by the use of delaying tactics, such as a filibuster.

I've been noting this for months now: The GOP's Obama-era brand of hyper-partisanship and obstructionist voting patterns has no precedent in modern American history. None.

And you know why that is? It's because in the past when in the party out of power tried to systematically obstruct the will of the majority, they'd catch holy hell for it in the press and from commentators. Meaning, there was a downside to trying to hold Congress hostage.

But not for today's GOP. And Republican leaders know it. The Beltway press has mostly turned a blind, non-judgmental eye while the GOP has re-written the rules for governing from the minority. Yes, the press covers many of the votes that Republicans stymie. But there's little or no media debate about what the Republican Party is actually doing, which is practicing obstructionism on a massive and previously unseen scale.

That's not normal and it's about time the lapdog Beltway press corps awoke form its current coma and started calling the radicalism by its proper name.

Instead, we get crickets. ("Obstructionist" has become the media's Noun That Cannot Be Mentioned.) There's not even a hint that today's organized, across-the-board filibuster strategy is unique or odd. Pundits and reporters cover the spectacle as if it's everyday hardball and just more "partisan combat." It's not. It's extraordinary.

"There's very little public discussion, and very little public criticism," Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) recently told Politico. Her analysis of Republican obstructionism and the how the media enable it, was dead-on:

You guys don't write about, and this is what they do. I don't see it, and I take five newspapers. I don't see it on the tube, and I don't see it anywhere. It's obstruction. It's obfuscation. It's bringing the body to a halt and it's been done dozens of times. And this is one more of those times… and they haven't gotten much criticism for it clearly or they would have stopped it.

Truth is, the Beltway press has always been overly impressed by the Republican brand of hardball, which may explain the free ride the GOP gets with its obstructionist strategy.

Take the vote last week in the Senate on what had previously been a bipartisan bill to aide medical first responders who have suffered from the events on 9/11. The bill passed in the House three months ago and was expected to pass in the senate, as well. But that was before Republicans issued their threat to filibuster any piece of legislation that was not a tax break for wealthy Americans. The minority is demanding that the majority bring one specific bill up for vote, and if they don't, Republicans, via the filibuster, will vote down every bill that's introduced, regardless of its content. ("The Dickishness of the GOP," is what blogger Andrew Sullivan called it.)

So the 9/11 first responders bill, which had been years in the making and was going to set aside $7.4 billion in medical benefits and compensation for emergency workers, was voted down procedurally when 41 Republicans registered No votes. And it wasn't simply a symbolic vote. It wasn't a case of the bill got voted down but once Republicans finally get the tax bill they want, the 9/11 bill will get another shot and likely pass.

It doesn't work that way. Because the bill failed last week, its backers now likely have to go back to square one and start all over again. And even though the bill enjoyed some bipartisan support in the House, with Republicans controlling the House come January, the likelihood of the bill being picked up and voted on again remains slim.

So legislation to aid medical emergency workers who responded on the day America suffered its worst ever terrorist attack, and a bill that passed the House by 100 votes, was voted down by Republicans because it wasn't the one-and-only bill they were willing to act on. (Tax cuts for the rich.)

As I noted at the time, none of the evening news telecasts on ABC, CBS or NBC covered the news about the 9/11 first responders bill. And the rest of the mainstream media didn't show much interest either. In the 48 hours following the vote, according to TVeyes.com, the phrase "first responder" was mentioned 10 times on CNN, nine on MSNBC and just one time on Fox News.

That's right, once.

So today, the GOP's radical brand of obstructionism not only isn't held up as being something remarkable and radical, it's not even commented on or reported about. Instead it's met with a collective shrug of the media shoulders; a sort of it's-just-Republicans-being-Republicans acknowledgement, which journalists seem to witness with a sense of admiration.

Question: If a few years ago Democrats in the minority had blocked a Bush-backed bill to aid and compensate 9/11 first responders because Dems had vowed to only vote on one piece of legislation designed to raise taxes on the most wealthy, do you think on the night when the 9/11 first responders bill died a filibuster death that ABC, CBS, and NBC would at least mention it, and that lots of cable TV and Internet chatterers would be swiftly condemning the naked obstructionism?

I do, too.

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Politico
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