Republicans use obscure political tactics to thwart Democrats
WASHINGTON — Republicans have committed to their favored procedural weapon for this Congress — and they’ve aimed it squarely at Democrats concerned about their 2024 prospects.
Twice in the past week, Republicans have notched up victories and divided Democrats, using a mysterious maneuver known as disapproval resolution to target policies they oppose and see as a political vulnerability for Democrats by using the Actions used to reinforce their message.
The biggest victory came Thursday when President Biden told Senate Democrats he would sign a Republican-led resolution blocking the District of Columbia’s new penal code when it reached his desk. It was a reversal of his previous opposition and a frank acknowledgment that Republicans had defeated Democrats on the thorny issue of violent crime.
It’s somewhat unusual for the president to have to grapple with legislation he opposes when his party controls at least part of Congress — in this case the Senate — since his Capitol Hill allies can usually clog legislation they don’t fallen and can spare him from a veto or a tough decision.
But the beauty of a disapproval resolution is that it has special status in the Senate. It cannot be kept off the ground by the majority leader and is not subject to filibuster, giving lawmakers an outright political tool if they can assemble a simple majority. That’s because of the Congressional Review Act, enacted in 1996 after Republicans took power on Capitol Hill and created the process that allows Congress to overturn federal rules.
With little power to set the Senate agenda, Republicans see this tactic as a handy way to score legislative victories and force Democrats to debate issues they would rather avoid.
“If you’re in the minority, there’s not much more you can do,” said Senator John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “I think it’s useful, and you’re seeing some election-year conversions in terms of votes. You can increase the visibility of some of these things and actually have a discussion about whether or not it works.
A divided congress
The 118th Congress is underway, with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and Democrats controlling the Senate.
The technique also fits the Republican legislative mindset, which tends to block policy rather than create it.
“We are built to disapprove,” said North Dakota Republican Senator Kevin Cramer.
The current makeup of Congress makes the motion to pass a potentially powerful weapon for Republicans. With its tight control of the House of Representatives, the GOP can, if necessary, win approval of a resolution without a Democratic vote. Because of the special status of the legislature in the Senate, Republicans can then force a vote there, giving Democrats the uncomfortable choice of either casting a politically difficult vote against the opposition, or supporting and allowing the measure, passing it to Mr. Biden and demanding a Veto Showdown on.
That happened this week when the requisite two Democratic Senators — Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin III. Factors in the investment decision.
Democrats argued that the new rule is neutral and investors don’t have to weigh those factors, but allowed the practice only after a Trump-era rule banned it. Republicans, however, claimed the ordinance is an example of a Democratic “woke ideology” run amok and could erode returns on retirement investments and penalize fossil-fuel companies. It was enough to split off the two Democrats – both up for re-election next year – and send the resolution to Mr. Biden, who has promised to veto it.
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It had already passed the House, although only one Democrat, Maine Rep. Jared Golden, supported it.
The District Crime Bill resolution was a different matter altogether. Thirty-one Democrats joined House Republicans in February to vote to stall the district’s new penal code, which had come under fire for reducing or abolishing mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes amid the capital’s wave of high-profile auto thefts and witnessed murders. Given Congress’s constitutional authority over the district, its laws can be reviewed and repealed.
Republicans are eager to label Democrats as criminally soft and saw the district law as a means to do just that. Senate Democrats recognized the threat and began to align themselves with Republicans, and the resolution appeared to pass easily next week, putting Mr. Biden in the hot seat over whether to veto it at a moment when the public is alarmed about violent crime should insert. The President ended the tension by announcing that he would sign it, marking the first time in 30 years that a district law has been blocked by Congress.
Critics of the disapproval push say the fights take complicated political issues and reduce them to provocative, politically charged soundbites, losing the nuance, research and reasoning behind the decisions.
Take the brawl over the penal code. Proponents say the end product came from years of careful thought and incorporated some of the best criminal justice practices from across the country to make the local system more workable and more reflective of reality. But all you hear is that carjackers could get a lighter sentence.
“They present complex issues,” Delaware Democrat Senator Chris Coons said of the resolutions, “but they will be drafted and voted on in a way that has more to do with election results and the way they’re likely to be used in attacks.” ads are used and not the underlying substance of the policy.”
He called Republicans’ attack on the investment rule “just silly” and said it actually goes against the GOP tradition of letting the markets do their own thing.
“It was kind of a ‘down is up and up is down’ resolution,” he said.
That’s not to say the Democrats haven’t tried to take advantage of the Congressional Review Act. Senate Democrats tried several times to overthrow Trump administration policies, but were thwarted until Mr. Biden was elected, and the Democrat-led Congress then repealed some of the Trump administration’s rules.
The Review Act was intended to give Congress the ability to rein in federal bureaucracy and was initially used sparingly when President George W. Bush signed the first resolution into law in 2001 to amend a widely contested Clinton-era policy on ergonomics rules reverse workplace.
When Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in 2011, they targeted Obama administration policies, including some on climate change and the environment, but the president vetoed all five resolutions brought to him.
When Donald J. Trump took office in 2017, he and Republican congressional leaders made a concerted effort to reverse a number of Obama administration regulations. Mr. Trump signed more than a dozen disapprovals in the first year of his presidency as Republicans abused their power.
Republicans in Congress attempted to continue that push in 2021 after Mr. Biden took office. The Senate voted to repeal an administrative rule that required large employers to mandate vaccines or regular testing for the coronavirus. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker at the time, never put the measure to a vote, and she died in the House of Representatives.
With the GOP now in a majority in the House of Representatives, there are fewer obstacles to such disapproval resolutions. Republicans have already tabled one for next week to overturn the Biden administration’s policy on the extent of regulation of navigable waterways, a major bone of contention in the agriculture and construction industries.
With an election looming, Republicans say they intend to bring forward many more. That’s probably an idea most Democrats would frown on.
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/03/us/politics/republicans-resolution-disapproval.html Republicans use obscure political tactics to thwart Democrats