When high school civics classes visit Washington, D.C. and observe the daily operation of the United States Senate, I suspect the students hardly recognize the legislative chamber their textbooks describe.
Once considered the world’s “greatest deliberative body,” the Senate has decayed into a hive of partisan attacks and political protectionism. So little gets accomplished, and what does must occur in secret meetings behind closed doors.
The normal process of legislating – known as “regular order” in Washington – is seldom seen.
Americans are witnessing one of the most ineffective, do-nothing Senates in history. Budgets are not passed. Amendments are denied consideration. Concerns are dismissed. Debate is silenced. Rules are altered to restrict minority-party influence.
We live in a society where the best ideas are expected to win the day, but that’s not the case today in the Senate. Despite the significant number of legislative proposals offered by both parties, this Senate has done next to nothing to pursue policies that can actually help the American people.
Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid drives gridlock and bitter partisanship in Washington by consistently refusing to allow amendments or substantive debate in the Senate. Sen. Reid has made a habit of putting his own partisan interests ahead of those of our country.
Since 2007, he has used his position as Senate Majority Leader to attack others while doing – in my opinion – far too little to move the country in a positive direction. This development has not gone unnoticed by many of my Democratic colleagues, who quietly join in our chamber’s collective lament.
The costs of a dysfunctional Senate are enormous. When the appropriations process is discarded, control of government spending is ceded to the executive branch, where risk of waste, fraud and abuse are abundant. When pro-growth legislation is killed for political reasons, our economy remains stagnant.
When Congress is broken, our students suffer, our troops are denied benefits, and job creators are stifled.
These costs are personal for many Americans. Employment opportunities are still too difficult to come by.
Obamacare is driving up the cost of health care and limiting consumer choice. Overregulation is strangling the private sector, limiting the ability of businesses to hire new workers while driving up prices for consumers.
Misguided, antiquated or just plain senseless federal policies are slowing economic growth.
The Senate should be working together to fix these pressing issues. In my many attempts to offer legislative fixes to our nation’s challenges, I have actively sought and secured Democratic cosponsors and supporters. Yet, our bipartisan efforts are denied the time of day. Even the most commonsense policy that enjoys broad support from both sides of the aisle is all but hopeless under the current Senate Majority Leader.
When the Senate fails, the country’s problems fester, leading Americans to increasingly believe our nation is headed in the wrong direction. As citizens, it is critical that we not accept this trend as inevitable. In fact, it is our civic responsibility to do just the opposite.
For change to occur, the Senate must stop putting political games ahead of legislating and serious policy debate. To this end, I became chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee last year with the goal of electing a new majority in the United States Senate.
A Republican Senate offers leadership that seeks results, not political cover. Under new leadership, the Senate would finally be allowed to vote on legislation that works to improve the life of every American, rather than focus on divisive show votes that attempt to divide and antagonize.
The challenges America faces are significant and the consequences of failing to address them are profound. A functioning Senate benefits Americans of every political stripe.
I don’t expect to win every policy battle, but I do expect my ideas to be heard, debate to be had, and the best possible solutions to be reached. That should not be too much to ask from the world’s “greatest deliberative body.”
On November 4, 2014, Americans have an opportunity to fix the Senate by electing a Republican majority and begin to forge a better path.