Monday, April 26, 2004

"...the master of the wily maneuver."

That's Terence Samuel's evaluation of Minority Leader Tom Daschle in a piece for The American Prospect. Here's a little context...

"The list of important legislation that will die from inattention or political suffocation at the end of the 108th Congress is long and distinguished one: energy legislation, welfare reform, highway funding, asbestos compensation, medical-malpractice liability, a tax overhaul for corporations that do business overseas and that are now subject to sanctions by the European Union...

...Exercising the only real leverage the party has in Washington, Senate Democrats are making it difficult, and impossible when they can, for the Republican majority to work its will and that of the White House. Of course, one man’s obstructionism is another’s wily parliamentary maneuver. And Tom Daschle is the master of the wily maneuver."

Daschle doen't buy the 'obstructionist' tag. In fact, he lays claim to being the genuine small 'r' republican in the fray. Samuel quotes him saying "...they seem to say, ‘We want it our way or we don't want it at all.’ Well, this is a republic, and in a republic you have got to have the kind of vigorous debate on issues of consequence that the Senate allows. And that's all we're asking: a good, vigorous debate with amendments, with opportunities for senators to express themselves.”

And he's right, of course. Vigorous debate in an atmosphere where collegiality transcends partisanship is what has given the US Senate a reputation as the world's greatest deliberative body for generations, and that's the reputation that Bill Frist and his minions have stripped the Senate of. Now some of the more extreme elements in the Republican caucus are arguing in favor of just closing down shop if the Democrats won't roll over and stop fighting back. The Carpetbagger Report thinks that's a fine idea.

"So, Sen. Frist, I dare you," writes the Carpetbagger. "If you're sick of Daschle's obstructionism, then show him who's boss and shut down the Senate. He won't let you do what you want to do anyway. Why give him the satisfaction of your frustration? He's making a mockery of the legislative process. Better to send everyone home, take your message to the people, and start things fresh in 2005..."

Hey, I'll second that! After all, shutting down the government worked out so well for the Republicans the last time they tried it...


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