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Monday, May 8, 2017

Judd Gregg: Dems embrace irrelevance

Judd Gregg: Dems embrace irrelevance
By Judd Gregg - 05-08-17 06:00 AM EDT

It takes a great deal of effort and personal sacrifice, especially if one has a family, to get elected to the House of Representatives or the Senate.

It also takes a great deal of money and, unless you are independently wealthy, a great deal of fundraising.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), recently elected in New Hampshire, spent or had spent on her behalf more than $50 million. This is in a state of approximately 1.3 million people.

Hassan also spent a great deal of time away from her family and her state raising money to pay for this victory. This type of effort is not unique; it is fairly typical. Running for Congress is a tremendous commitment.

All that being so, it would seem that a person would want to do something significant in Washington if he or she is fortunate enough to win election.

Yet for reasons that are difficult to comprehend, the Democrats in Congress have firmly embraced a trajectory of irrelevancy.

Making oneself relevant when you are in the minority, especially in the House, is a challenging exercise at the best of times.

But the thing that is uniquely strange about the Democratic leadership and their followers in this Congress is their enthusiasm for dealing themselves out of any constructive role in governing our nation.

With the decision to not allow Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court to go forward under the regular procedures, Democrats pushed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) into eliminating the minority's ability to use the filibuster.

In doing so, Senate Democrats kicked themselves off their own playing field.

The aftershock of this action will reverberate for a long time.

It is not too much of a reach to presume that the next opening on the Supreme Court may occur as a result of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stepping aside. Should this happen during President Trump's term in office, the table will have been set for how to pursue her replacement. Democrats will not have a seat at that table due to their decision to abandon participation in the Gorsuch nomination.

Will this change the outcome? It very well could.

The president, freed of even a hint of Democratic participation, may decide to move outside of the list of 20 potential nominees drawn up during his campaign.

Those nominees were put forth to show Trump's willingness to look to people whose credentials and judicial history were clear, transparent and generally impeccable.

His next nominee may come from an entirely different milieu. It might be someone like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

This should scare not only the left but Democratic senators generally. But they have chosen to opt out. Their concerns will be, at best, shouts from a distant bleacher section.

The administration is now turning to tax reform.

What is the Democratic leadership's response? They make demands that they know are not realistic. They unilaterally depart the field of play. They essentially force the Republicans in the Senate to use the power of reconciliation, allowing Republicans to pass tax reform with 51 votes.

The end result is a total lack of Democratic input into the most significant policy action of this Congress.

Ironically, tax reform is one area where there is considerable overlap of interest between thoughtful members of both parties. But the Democratic nihilists have walked away from the opportunity to help frame the outcome.

This scenario is played out in the same manner across most major policy issues. The Democratic membership has dropped out and disappeared as a meaningful participant in governance.

The exception to this approach was seen in the recent agreement on the omnibus spending bill. In this instance, the Democrats achieved a number of their goals, such as maintaining funding for Planned Parenthood.

They were able to achieve this because the Republicans must deal with their own small cadre of incoherent shouters in the House. These are folks who also do not want to govern. Their presence means that, if the Democrats want to participate, they have a clear avenue of action. But to date, such participation has been limited to the omnibus bill. The Democratic agenda has been resistance, not engagement.

It is a challenge to understand why numerous members of the Democratic caucus, especially in the Senate, have adopted the potted plant tactic. While their voices would not dominate - they are the minority, after all - they could still affect the outcome of many policies.

These are, for the most part, talented and constructive individuals who put a great deal of blood, sweat and money into getting to the Congress. Can they really wish to spend their time there doing nothing but filing disgruntled press releases and listening to the anger of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)?

This is not what most of these Democratic senators are about. They are about doing good and making American a better place. But to accomplish this, they need to be active participants in the business of Congress.

They need to say to their leadership and to their shouters: let's get back in the game and make an impact. They do not control events. But they can make a difference

To decline to do so makes them, and their time in Washington, irrelevant.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill. 


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