Republicans’ blocking of the Capitol commission shows how deep the rot is

The question now is not so much whether the Republican party can be saved any time in the foreseeable future. It is what Joe Biden and the Democrats should do when faced with a party determined to subvert democracy through any means necessary, including violence.

On Friday Republicans in the Senate torpedoed an effort to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly insurrection by Donald Trump’s supporters at the US Capitol on 6 January, deploying the procedural move known as the filibuster to stop it even being debated.

Fearful perhaps of what such a commission might uncover about their own role as co-conspirators, most brushed aside personal pleas by Gladys Sicknick, the mother of a police officer who was that day sprayed with a chemical, collapsed and later had a stroke and died.

“A country that cannot even agree to investigate an assault on its Capitol is in big trouble, indeed,” observed Susan Glasser in the New Yorker magazine.

Tellingly Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, who previously condemned Trump’s role in the riot, reportedly asked senators to nix the commission as a “personal favour”. It was a sign that the rot now goes deeper than a cult of personality into the foundations of the Grand Old Party (GOP).

It is a party that still has room for Matt Gaetz, a Florida congressman under investigation over sex trafficking allegations, who this week appeared to incite supporters to take up arms. “We have a second amendment in this country, and I think we have an obligation to use it,” he said.

Gaetz was speaking in Georgia on his “America First” tour alongside local congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently compared coronavirus mask mandates to the Holocaust. The pair of mini-Trumps are taking his playbook of attention-grabbing outrage to new extremes.

Bill Kristol, director of the Defending Democracy Together advocacy organisation, tweeted on Friday morning: “Marjorie Taylor Greene bragged yesterday that she and Matt Gaetz are taking over the GOP. Today Senate Republicans are set to block a January 6th commission that could make that somewhat more difficult. Violence and authoritarianism has enablers as well as instigators.”

One of America’s two major parties now falls outside the democratic mainstream – think “far right” in European terms. But are Democrats taking the existential threat sufficiently seriously or sleepwalking towards disaster in the next election cycle?

Joe Manchin, a moderate senator from West Virginia, had said Republicans have “no excuse” to oppose the commission. Yet he also repeated his refusal to contemplate abolishing the filibuster, effectively giving Republicans carte blanche to block infrastructure spending, voting rights legislation, statehood for the District of Columbia and more.

Minutes after Friday’s vote, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, seemed to get it, arguing that Republicans acted out of “out of fear or fealty” to Trump and made his false claim of a stolen election their official policy. “Trump’s big lie is now the defining principle of what was once the party of Lincoln,” Schumer said. “Republican state legislatures, seizing on the big lie, are conducting the greatest assault on voting rights since the beginning of Jim Crow.”

But national voting rights legislation that would counter such steps is in deep trouble on Capitol Hill. Biden’s deadline for a police reform law named after George Floyd has come and gone due to Republican objections. His ambitious infrastructure investment is stalling as Republicans seek to shave billions off.

Whatever the president’s head tells him, his heart has always favoured bipartisan compromise. He may also feel obliged to make a show of reaching across the aisle to satisfy moderates such as Manchin. Yet Democratic majorities are painfully narrow and each day brings the midterm elections closer.

Fred Wellman, a military veteran who is executive director of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, tweeted: “We need to fight for our Republic. I don’t understand at all what the Democratic leadership is thinking. Stop fucking around. Stop letting McConnell walk all over you. For God’s sake act like you are the majority. We are all out here fighting. Where are you?”

That question just became even more urgent and the case for abolishing the filibuster, passing Biden’s agenda and acknowledging that the Republican party has gone rogue just became stronger.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.