John Colson: Just another day of rule-breaking in federal government
Hit & Run
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, last week ignored the Senate’s rule book and charged ahead to push a partisan and highly debatable bill out of his Senate Judiciary Committee and onto the floor of the Republican-run Senate.
He did this without permitting Democrats to make “point of order” objections to the breaking of the rules, or to propose amendments to the bill, things that have historically been critical parts of the normal course of legislation.
The bill, by the way, is meant to extend the Trump administration’s policies regarding detention and deportation of families of immigrants trying to move to the U.S., which promises to be a central point of contention in the upcoming 2020 presidential race.
Called the “Protect and Secure Act,” the bill “would require Central American asylum seekers to apply for asylum in countries they enter on the way to the U.S., and also would increase the time the government can detain families and children from 20 days to 100 days,” according to an analysis published by the Salon news outlet.
That means asylum seekers would be forced to wait outside the U.S. border while applying for asylum, which is not how it’s been done in the past. This clearly is an attempt by the current administration to make it ever more difficult for immigrants to obtain asylum while fleeing violence and corruption in their home countries south of the border.
In other words, it is a race-based effort to keep brown people (Latin Americans) out of the U.S. and away from U.S. elections, where people of color have historically been known to vote for Democrats more than Republicans.
To explain his actions, Graham indicated he was pissed off because Democrats stayed away from a committee meeting a short while ago to prevent Graham from getting his pet immigration “reform” bill out of the committee.
But that show of resistance by Democrats was aimed directly at the Dems’ perception that Graham already had departed from Senate norms and procedures and was improperly trying to push the bill toward debate on the Senate floor without giving Democrats a chance to debate it in committee.
Apparently, the rules mean little to Graham, who was particularly incensed when Democrats used tactics that his party has used effectively in recent years to delay unwanted legislation from becoming law.
Recall that back in June, a group of Oregon Republican legislators fled their state, reportedly to Idaho, in order to avoid having to vote on climate-change legislation being put forward by Democrats. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered the state patrol to bring them back to “do the jobs they were elected to do.”
Not that Republicans have a monopoly over such tactics.
Democrats pulled a similar move in Texas back in 2003, when that state’s legislature moved to deepen the gerrymander of Congressional districts in order to strengthen the GOP’s hold on the Texas statehouse.
Democrats objected, saying that redistricting in the middle of the decade, when redistricting normally only happens every 10 years after the U.S. census, is a bald and legally questionable move by the party in charge (Republicans, that is) to give itself a greater edge in the state’s political conflicts. Both parties play this amoral game, I must say, but the Republicans have been doing it longer and are better at it.
This tiff, of course, comes at a time when the two parties are locked in a pitched battle over a broad range of issues, but most tellingly over the effect of immigration and race-based politics in the 2020 presidential race.
Among the political issues coming out of this fight have been some fairly comical sidelights, such as the nicknaming of Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “Moscow Mitch” by Joe Scarborough, host of the “Morning Joe” radio show on MSNBC.
Scarborough, as alert readers undoubtedly can recall, adopted the nickname after McConnell refused to let the Senate discuss two Democrat-sponsored bills aimed at increasing election security.
The reason for these bills has been obvious since 2016, when Russian hackers mounted an online invasion of the U.S. electoral system and worked diligently to help Donald J. Trump win the presidential contest against Hillary Clinton. Nearly all Republicans, including Moscow Mitch, turned a blind eye to what essentially was an attempted coup by an outside government.
Recall, if you will, that Republicans engaged in their own attempted coup when they vowed to kill any legislation put forward by newly elected Pres Barack Obama back in 2009, and again in 2010. McConnell and his cohort carried out that promise with a vengeance, derailing Obama’s legislative agenda and blocking his every effort to appoint judges at the federal level.
This included their unprecedented refusal to hold confirmation hearings on Merrick Garland in 2016, let alone allow the nomination to get to a floor vote. It may have been back then that “Moscow Mitch” McConnell was worried that some Republicans might break ranks and vote in Merrick’s favor, since many of them had publicly said over the preceding couple of years that Garland would make an excellent Supreme Court Justice.
And continued dominance of the judiciary is a primary goal of the Republican Party, because even if Democrats manage to win the presidency and regain control of the Senate, a right-leaning judiciary will keep the Republican partisan agenda in power for decades to come.
Welcome to politics, circus-style, in the 21st century.
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