Seventy-six times during this session of Congress, Senate Republicans have filibustered. Never before in history has the obstruction tactic been wielded so widely. Just this week, a debate on record-high gasoline prices was choked off. The same day a measure to promote alternative energy was stymied. "The American people have a hard time understanding that," Senator Bernie Sanders said at a press conference on Wednesday, standing beside a poster showing that 75 bills were blocked so far in this session of Congress. The poster was outdated by Thursday afternoon. By a vote of 54 to 39, six shy of the 60 need to end a filibuster, a bill to keep Medicare from slashing physician payments on July 1 was stopped in its tracks. Over and over, from the war in Iraq to the crisis of global warming, Republican senators have thrown up parliamentary roadblocks.
"In the midst of the collapse of the American middle class, in the middle of a time when gas is $4 a gallon, when we are worried in the Northeast whether people will go cold this winter because they can't afford the high price of home heating oil, when people are worried about the future of the planet in terms of global warming, the American people look right here to the United States Senate, and what do they see? Do they see a vigorous debate about the major issues facing our society and the world? No. What they see is 75 filibusters, an all- time record in the Senate, in preventing honest debate about the major issues facing the American people. That's what they see."
Americans are beginning to get the picture. Here are headlines from one day alone this week after a minority refused even to let the Senate consider bills that address the root causes of record-high gas prices and invest in renewable energy. The headlines say it all:
Senate Republicans Blocks Windfall Taxes on Big Oil [Associated Press, 6/10/08]
Senate Republicans Block Debate on Gas, Oil ProvisionsNational Journal, 6/10/08] [
GOP Blocks Energy-Related Bills [United Press International, 6/10/08]
Tax Hike on Oil Profits Blocked [
GOP Senators Spike Windfall Profits Tax on Big Oil [CNN, 6/10/08]
Senate Republicans Block Democratic Bill That Targets Oil Company Profits [Congress Now, 06/10/08]
Republicans Block Senate Consideration of Democrats' Energy Bill [CQ, 6/10/08]
As Senate Fight Rages, Feds Predict $4.15-a-Gallon Gas; GOP Blocks Energy Package Containing New Taxes on Big Oil [
US Lawmakers Block Democrat Bill to Cut Energy PricesAgence
Windfall Profit Tax on Big Oil Halted in Senate [The
Energy Bills, Including Windfall Tax, Stall in Senate [
Senate Blocks Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax Bill [Christian Science Monitor, 6/11/08]
Senate Blocks Debate on Energy Tax Measures [Reuters, 6/10/08]
Senate Republicans defeated an effort by Democrats to bring up a Medicare bill for debate on Thursday, and Democratic leaders conceded they will have to negotiate with the GOP on compromise legislation.
The bill (S 3101), by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is aimed at reversing a 10.6 percent cut in physician payments under Medicare that is scheduled to take effect on July 1. Doctors say the cut is unaffordable. They say they might refuse new Medicare patients if it takes effect, making the issue of paramount importance to Congress.
But Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on how to pay for averting the cut, the main issue in Thursday's 54-39 vote. Democrats needed 60 votes to win cloture — or end filibusters — on a motion to begin debate on the bill.