In the past couple of years, Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado have touted their intent and ability to “work across the aisle to get things done”. Instead of standing firm on Democratic principles and working overtime to secure the policies their base wants enacted, they have yielded time and again to the more disciplined but less principled Republican Teabaggers who are under no such illusions to work with the other side. I’ve met and talked with with the staff of Sen. Udall many times since he was elected, trying to convince him to fight for what Colorado majorities and not corporate majorities want. Each and every time, I was told by his staff that Sen. Udall values my opinion but feels it is important to represent everybody. I have never received a sufficient explanation why it is more important to pay attention to what a minority of Coloradans want than what the majority wants. A similar story emerged with Sen. Bennet. So I have changed the way I evaluate the Senators’ performance. If they want to be judged based on their ability to work with the other side, I’m happy to do that.
The issue of whether or not to continue or let expire the 2001 and 2003 Bush Regime tax cuts has been in the news recently. Yesterday, Senators worked a rare Saturday session into their schedule to vote on those cuts. Faced with the opportunity to extend tax cuts for earners of less than $250,000 permanently but allow tax cuts to expire on those making more than that, Sens. Udall and Bennet had the chance to demonstrate their acumen in bringing bipartisanship to the table. If you look at this issue from the vantage point that Democrats hold the majority and a majority of Americans wanted the first $250,000 of every Americans’ income subject to continued tax breaks, Sens. Udall and Bennet failed. Only 51 other Senators voted with them.
Now, under average Americans’ expectations, majorities should rule on voting. Think how little would get done in the country if every election required a 60% threshold. Well, that’s exactly what’s going on in the U.S. Senate again. The same group of people whom Sens. Udall and Bennet have pursued so relentlessly in the quest for bipartisanship are the same group of extremists who have abused Senate filibuster rules to record levels in the past 4 years. Reasonable people might conclude after 4 years of repeated behavior that the Republican Teabaggers might not want to work with Democrats; that bipartisanship is all well and good, but the highest priority of the people’s public servants is serving the public and doing their jobs, which in this case means passing legislation the public wants passed.
Sens. Udall and Bennet once again failed to convince enough Republicans to work with them to break another wimpy, no-consequence Republican filibuster.
If, on the other hand, you look at things slightly differently, Sens. Udall and Bennet succeeded wildly once again. They worked to ensure that 42 Republicans were able to prevent the over-reaching Democratic tax legislation didn’t pass. They worked to keep the richest Americans paying the lowest tax rate they’ve paid in decades, at least for the next 27 days. Their unrivaled skill at political jujitsu was once again put on prominent display. How else to explain another minority party victory in the Senate? It’s not as if Democrats were anywhere near this successful at securing victories when they were the minority in the Senate. Yes, Sens. Udall and Bennet are priceless treasures to Coloradans and Americans.
Except both of them have stated publicly that they don’t think the Senate is working the way it should. Both have ideas on how to change Senate procedural rules next year. We’ll see if they come through on that or not. In the meantime, one more step toward keeping unnecessary tax cuts in place for Americans who hold a super-majority of this nation’s wealth but who refuse to spend any of it to put more Americans to work and improve the economy has been taken. Neither Senator has taken the opportunity to describe the moral outrage such a condition presents. I guess that’s what working in a bipartisan way really means these days. Outrages get to continue hardly abated, but Democrats don’t speak ill of their congenial colleagues, who are only too happy to not reciprocate the favor.
With a much, self-weakened President Obama and Republican Teabaggers on the ascent in the House and Senate, it’s going to be a long two years. The biggest shame is it didn’t have to be this way. Of lesser shame is too few people are holding Sens. Udall and Bennet accountable for their failures at securing Republican votes. Their records on doing so are atrocious. One might conclude that failure is looked upon differently for those in the establishment. I know I wouldn’t still have my job if I demonstrated this level of failure for this long.