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GOP Senate Did One Thing in 2006: Kill Democratic Initiatives

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Of all the nauseating tactics used by the Republican party in the 2006, midterm election campaign, one of the more galling was their continued insistence that Democrats had "no plan" for national security. To provide cover for that bogus claim, the Senate's GOP leadership made damn sure that, on September 13, 2006, they killed 528 pages of a national-security blueprint, proposed by Democrats, called the Real Security Act of 2006 -- and then went around for the next six weeks saying the Democrats had no plan. That legislation, dumped on an almost-straight party line vote, was one of many Democratic-sponsored measures to die in the Republican-controlled Senate in 2006 and part of a whopping three-quarters of Democratic initiatives squashed over the two years of the 109th Congress. An analysis of all Senate roll call votes in 2006, shows that, true to the form they established the previous year, the GOP killed most legislation proposed by Senate Democrats. In all, Democrats were able to scrape together a handful of Republican votes to pass just 28 pieces of legislation in all of 2006. There were 279 roll call votes in the second half of the 109th Congress -- January through December of this year -- and 104 votes involved measures sponsored by Democrats. Of those, 73, or 70 percent, had a negative outcome, meaning that they were rejected in an up-or-down vote or tabled/killed by the GOP majority. (And this is with a generous interpretation that gives Republicans "credit" for allowing benign, crowd-pleasers to pass, such as a Barbara Boxer amendment to punish parents who have committed incest and a measure by Barack Obama for Katrina relief, which both passed by unanimous votes. ) Add the 70 percent kill-rate of the Democratic measures defeated in 2006 with the greater number beaten back by Republicans in 2005 and the GOP ends the 109th Congress having shot down 207 of 283 pieces of Democratic-sponsored legislation -- or 73 percent. There are two things that jump out when one considers the votes of the last Senate... One is that it was indeed as partisan as it appeared to those of us observing it each and every day and the deck was at all times stacked against Democrats and any legislation they tried to move forward. This was brought into specific relief when I averaged the roll call votes on all 73 times in 2006 that Democratic legislation was killed and the average numeric vote in those instances was 46-53 -- amazingly close to the exact split of 44 Democrats and 55 Republicans in the 2004-2006 Senate. How's that for a look at what results a Democratic Senator should have reasonably expected, no matter what legislation they brought to the floor? The other startling thing that becomes obvious when analyzing the votes, is the sheer number of bills related to national security or helping America's Veterans that were voted down by the Republicans -- with no substitute measures of their own -- simply because the ideas came from the other side of the aisle. Here's some examples of Democratic legislation that was killed by the Senate GOP majority in 2006:
  • Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) proposed S.Amdt. 3007 to "increase Veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in FY 2007 to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes." It was voted down 46-54 with every Republican but Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) voting against it.
  • S.Amdt. 3141, was proposed by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to provide for Veterans benefits that steadily increased over time to account for both inflation and the large number of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Stabenow's bill was rejected 46-54 -- probably because she stipulated that it be "paid for by restoring the pre-2001 top rate for income over $1 million, closing corporate tax loopholes and delaying tax cuts for the wealthy."
  • John Kerry (D-MA) who has consistently been a Veterans advocate, proposed S.Amdt. 3143, to keep medical-care fees and co-pays from going up on military retirees, only to see it shot down by the Republicans.
  • Two measures by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) -- S. Amdt. 4999 and S.Amdt. 3054 -- were proposed to provide additional funding to increase inspections at America's shipping ports and to improve the security of cargo containers destined for the United States. Both were killed on party line votes that saw only Jim Talent (R-MO) cross the aisle to vote with Democrats on one of the bills.
  • Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced S.Amdt. 4587, to boost transit security funding in major cities by $300 million and saw it rejected by the Republican majority.
  • America's firefighters had a friend in Chris Dodd (D-CT) who proposed S.Amdt. 4641 in July " fund urgent priorities for our Nation's firefighters, law enforcement personnel, emergency medical personnel," but saw it go down on the Senate floor because he proposed paying for it "by reducing the tax breaks for individuals with annual incomes in excess of $1,000,000" -- obviously the kiss of death in a GOP-controlled Congress.
  • Byron Dorgan (D-ND) proposed S.Amdt. 4292, to thoroughly weed out fraud and war profiteering among big Republican donors like Halliburton and had it defeated 44-52, with only one Republican -- Lincoln Chafee again -- siding with Democrats, troops and American taxpayers.
And it goes on and on from there... We know how hard the Republicans have fought against an increase in the minimum wage, but they also came out hard against another effort by Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to increase college Pell grants and job training programs. In addition, the GOP saw to it that a measure by Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), to foster greater American fuel efficiency via "... foreign oil replacement with biofuels and alternative fuels and advanced/hybrid vehicle use" was rejected 46-54. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) lost on S. Amdt 4689 for grants to provide education on preventing teen pregnancies and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) followed up on the Hurricane Katrina debacle by proposing S.Amdt. 4563, to re-establish the Federal Emergency Management Agency as an independent body. Apparently thinking Brownie had done a "heck of a job," the Republicans killed that as well. But Senate Republicans sure found a lot of time to get involved in the Terri Schiavo case, whip people into a frenzy over flag burning, hate on gay marriage, give more tax breaks to the wealthy and -- in what outgoing Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) cited as one of his major accomplishments -- save the Mount Soledad Cross. Let's hope this is instructive more than anything and that, by looking back at what the Republican party has not cared about for the last two years, we'll get a better sense of what we can expect now that Democrats are going to be in charge of the legislative agenda. You can read more from Bob at
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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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