Opinion

Republicans back Eyman's newest scheme | Andrew Villeneuve

Nobody is better at political theater than Republicans.

They pay lip service to the high ideal of bipartisanship. They go to incredible lengths to wrap the American flag around themselves. They pretend to be concerned about working families struggling to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, they do everything they can to ensure that Democrats fail to fulfill their campaign promises to the American people.

It’s happening in both our Washington and the other Washington (District of Columbia).

Here, the Republican Party has thrown its enthusiastic support behind Tim Eyman’s newest scheme, a do-over of Initiative 960 from 2007. I-960 unconstitutionally barred the Legislature from raising taxes or even repealing outdated tax exemptions without a two-thirds vote. In other words, I-960 made majority rule illegal and gave veto power over important fiscal decisions to a small handful of lawmakers: for example, 34 percent of just one house.

Since it took effect, I-960 has ironically been protected by the very document it illicitly and undemocratically contravened: Our state Constitution, which forbids the Legislature from changing initiatives without a two-thirds vote for two years.

Two years have now gone by, and with the state in the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis, Democrats are moving to break I-960’s shackles and restore majority rule to the statehouse. They intend to then approve new revenue to avoid horrific budget cuts.

Republicans, naturally, are howling in protest because I-960’s removal means an end to their veto power over the majority. Three Republican state senators are actually co-sponsoring Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053, which, as mentioned, was conceived to slap the shackles back on as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, in our nation’s capitol, Republicans have purposely kept the United States Senate stalled so that it can’t accomplish anything. As a result, they effectively control half of Congress.

They’ve done this by abusing the Senate’s antiquated rules. Since the rules rest on the principle of unanimous consent, all Republicans have to do to bring business to a halt is refuse their consent. They have automatically filibustered legislation, placed baseless holds on President Obama’s nominees, demanded procedural votes on everything, and dragged out debates for as long as possible.

Their mindset is simple: They never want to be out of power. If they can’t persuade voters to keep them in charge, then they are for oligarchy.

At a time when we should be discussing how to best solve the climate crisis, reform our financial markets, create jobs, protect public services, responsibly end the occupation of Iraq, and stop nuclear proliferation, we are instead arguing over whether America should be a democracy (but in more sophisticated language), with Democrats for democracy and Republicans for oligarchy.

That’s the core of this debate.

Democracy requires that decisions be based on majority rule. When majority rule is subverted or abolished, so is democracy.

Elected Democrats in this Washington seem to have come to the realization that the Republican Party no longer believes in Republicanism. Consequently, they have nobly resolved to use their majority to restore majority rule, instead of wasting the people’s time and money begging Republicans to compromise.

Democrats in the other Washington should follow suit.

Since Republicans won’t stop abusing the privileges that are accorded to them by Senate rules, Democrats should simply vote to adopt new, more democratic ones. Democrats comprise a majority of the chamber; they have a moral obligation to the American people to free the Senate from the chokehold of the Party of No.

It is the only way they can do what they were elected to do: Respond to the extraordinary challenges of our time.

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