The first 100 days of Nancy Pelosi’s reign as speaker of the House have come and gone. Several times over, actually. And what does Congress have to show for it? Little to nada, legislatively speaking, and even lower public approval ratings than the besieged President Bush.
Not that we’re complaining. Most of what Pelosi and congressional Democrats want to do for Americans — or is it to Americans? — sends shivers down the spines of those of us who still believe in limited government, low rates of taxation and a regulatory rollback. That the first 100 days has been a flop is a blessing, and it will be a double blessing if gridlock continues, given that neither party is inclined to rein in the leviathan.
Pelosi marked her first six months as speaker recently at a press event that felt more like a wake than a revival. Rather than shouldering the blame for diverting Congress from more mundane business into an excessive effort to overtake logistics in the war in Iraq, Pelosi chalked it up to “the obstructionism of the Republicans in the United States Senate.” But the techniques the new minority is using were pioneered by Democrats when they were the minority.
“The Democrats in their years in the minority made a filibuster-proof 60-vote supermajority — rather than a 51-vote simple majority — the threshold needed to pass any legislation in the Senate,” The San Francisco Chronicle noted recently. “Democrats routinely blocked all but the most noncontroversial bills. … Republicans complained at the time, but many of them are happy now.”
Added Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Boston University: “The Republicans are doing what the Democrats did. They’re using the power of the Senate filibuster, and the power in the House when you have narrow majorities, to make a do-nothing Congress … even when there’s a lot of interest in accomplishing things.”
But accomplishing what, exactly? That’s the critical question. We’ll take a “do-nothing Congress” over a “do-everything-wrong Congress” any day.