Republicans Won't Even Fake It

GOP leaders are skipping any pretense of working with Democrats or the White House.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Let’s say you hate your job, but not enough to quit. Let’s say you’re no good at your job, but not bad enough to be fired. Let’s say you’ve decided to go through the motions—punch a clock, dodge the boss, and go home. You’re faking it.

Now let’s say you’re a Republican member Congress and your job is to work with other people, pass laws, and govern. You may hate your job. You certainly aren’t getting anything done; the GOP-led Congress is dysfunctional.

And now you’re not even faking it.

Conflating opposition with obstruction, the GOP leadership has decided to skip any pretense of working with Democrats and the White House. In the last few weeks, congressional Republicans:

  • Declared they would not allow a hearing or vote on President Obama’s nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. It doesn’t matter who Obama choses (he hasn’t nominated anybody yet), because conservative interests groups plotted months ago to cow GOP lawmakers.
  • Refused to meet with Obama’s budget director to discuss the president’s annual budget. The snub, the first of its kind in decades, came before Obama submitted his budget.
  • Refused to act on any of Obama’s nominees before the Senate Banking Committee, a dereliction of its advise-and-consent powers that, according to the New York Times, “has interfered with economic sanctions and hampered the work of the Export-Import Bank and the Federal Reserve.”
  • Rejected with obnoxious relish the president’s plan to close the post-9/11 prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after demanding the White House submit such a plan. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas had himself filmed throwing the document into the trash. Kansas is the home of Fort Leavenworth, a potential alternative for housing terrorist suspects.

Republicans have the right—and perhaps even good reason—to oppose the president’s policies. But they can’t honestly reject a person who hasn’t been nominated, a budget that hasn’t been submitted, or a prison plan that hasn’t been read.

Could there be one or two Obama nominees before the Banking Committee who don’t deserve a hearing? Perhaps—but not every single one of them. When asked about the blockage, committee chairman Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama told the New York Times, “My primary is Tuesday! We can talk about this later!”

At least voters will know where his priorities lie.

Here’s the irony: This level of obstinacy makes it impossible to hold Obama and other Democrats accountable for their own role in Washington’s dysfunction. I haven’t shied away from criticizing the president’s leadership or the unyielding liberal front presented by congressional Democrats. There are no white hats in Congress.

But what the GOP is doing now is so obvious and destructive that the party’s record-low approval rating will dip farther. The public will lose more faith in Congress, which is already less popular than lice. And congressional Democrats, held in just slightly higher regard than their GOP counterparts, will no doubt return the favor and obstruct the next Republican president.

Then again, if Republicans in Congress aren’t even willing to fake it, there may not be a GOP president anytime soon.