Republicans keep saying that the Democrats are running a do-nothing Congress. They think it is a good line of attack because the public generally wants Congress and the president to work together to pass legislation, and not much has been enacted this year.
But this criticism strikes us as misguided. Our judgment of it is biased, of course, since we generally prefer inaction by this Congress to the alternative. Even as a political tactic, however, the do-nothing charge has its dangers.
One is that the public will blame the Republicans for the inaction. Democrats have already responded to the charge by saying that they would have passed a lot of bills if not for Republican obstruction. The solution, they will say, is for voters to remove enough Republican senators that no more filibusters will be possible, and to take the veto out of Republican hands. This advice will fall on receptive ears. A merely partisan fight over who is to blame for inaction — with action taken as an unquestioned good — hands the media the power to judge the contest. Republicans will not win it.
Republicans should shift their focus from the Democratic pass/fail record to the underlying reason for it. Democratic bills are failing because they are too far left to win strong bipartisan support. This Congress has tried to raise taxes, to force taxpayers to finance the killing of human embryos, to micromanage the war, and to move toward nationalized health care. It is a Congress that wants to do much too much: in short, a liberal Congress. Maybe that’s what Republicans should call it.