In James Fallows’ series on the Republican Party’s assault on the democratic institutions set up by our Constitution, occasioned by the scathing indictment of a disgusted longtime Republican Hill staffer, he ran a series of responses from readers, including this one:
I worked for a Senator in the majority party, who chaired an Appropriations subcommittee in the late 1980s. He was neither the best nor the worst legislator ever to serve on the North Side of the Capitol, but I can tell you that neither he nor any of his fellow subcommittee chairmen were indifferent to the pressure they would have gotten from other Senators if they hadn’t gotten their appropriations bills passed in a timely way. This meant, as a rule, not just before the end of the federal fiscal year but far enough before it to allow action by the full Senate and negotiations with the House. An Appropriations subcommittee chairman who failed to move his bills would have damaged his career in the Senate, and the same was true in the House. It isn’t true any longer — the FY 2011 appropriations bills, every one of them, were not enacted until FY 2011 was half over. This would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
There are still some Senators left from that earlier time. I think it should be noted for the record that they have surrendered what Mann and Ornstein call the institutional patriotism of the Senate without a fight. I have in mind Sens. Cochran, Lugar, Hatch and McCain in particular — men who made their public lives in the Senate, but having served long past their time could not find the strength to lift a hand in its defense.
Lugar has degenerated into a conventional modern Republican, joining and leading filibusters against infrastructure spending and his own DREAM Act in order to oppose ending DADT. And of course he opposed the health care plan he’d supported for decades, the ACA.
Now, Republicans are filibustering the confirmation of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nominee Richard Cordray, even though they acknowledge that he is “clearly qualified”. Where’s the formerly respected elder statesman on this one?
Lugar is still capable of acting with a conscience, as when he pushed back against Mitt Romney‘s “thoroughly ignorant” demagoguing of America’s national security. But the rot is deep in the GOP. Even someone with Dick Lugar’s record is willing, at age 79, to sell his reputation for the mess of pottage that is Tea Party support.