A Quote: Sen. Thune (R-SD) on Wasting Time

Sen. John Thune (R-SC)

“If it’s not pay equity, it’s going to be something else. We realize the next couple of weeks are going to be a bust around here and we want to get to the important business, which is [government funding], and we’ll get to that faster hopefully.”

Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Republicans recently emerged with a new tactic in their campaign to win the U.S. Senate and grow their House majority in November: Pretend to flank Democrats from the left. Over the summer, for instance, GOP challengers to Democratic Senate incumbents have pitched over-the-counter birth control access, an idea that might sound good at first, but important questions persist about whether increased out-of-pocket costs will actually have the effect of reducing access.

The plot has opened a new chapter; Burgess Everett of Politico explains the way it works:

Senate Republicans have a new strategy: Vote to advance bills they oppose.

On Wednesday, 19 Republicans joined with Senate Democrats to overcome a filibuster of legislation aimed at ensuring pay equity for men and women. That vote was 73-25, an overwhelming margin by Senate standards. On Monday, 25 Republicans voted with Democrats to advance a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform.

The GOP broadly opposes both of these proposals — but they are voting to extend debate on them to chew up the remaining few days on the legislative calendar and prevent Democrats from holding even more campaign-themed votes on raising the minimum wage, reforming the student loan system and striking back at the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Even though those measures have already failed this year, Democrats believe holding a second round of failed votes on them will place Republicans on the wrong side of poll-tested issues right before the election. But because everyone in Congress is eying the exits for general election season, the GOP figures if it strings out debate on proposals that it opposes, the damage will be limited.

“If it’s not pay equity, it’s going to be something else,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chamber’s top GOP messaging man. “We realize the next couple of weeks are going to be a bust around here and we want to get to the important business, which is [government funding], and we’ll get to that faster hopefully.”

An unnamed Senate Republican told Everett that the latest tack was to “spend some time talking about it and that might make it less likely for them to bring up other things”, and if GOP colleagues block debate, the Democrats move on. The underlying point is that for all Senate Republicans pretend a desire to talk about policy, they are simply afraid to put a vote on any of their policy solutions right now. It’s an interesting intersection of politics and politics.

Still, though, the message is clear: If the Republicans in the Senate choose to take up an issue—e.g. human rights of women—it is not because they intend to actually do anything, but, rather, would prefer to forestall discussion of any other issues that might further embarrass them. After all, part of the whole OTC contraception argument is a Republican effort to convince voters that conservatives aren’t waging a war on women, and if only women were smart enough to recognize reality, they would see that the Democrats are the real villains.

Yet as Democrats criticize the time-wasting that even Republicans boast is intended to avoid Senate votes, other Republicans protest that anyone would dare acknowledge the obvious. Everett notes:

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) shot back that the GOP is “never afraid to debate anything.” But the same proposal was blocked unanimously by Republicans in April. On Tuesday, the vote advanced by a whopping margin. What changed?

“The timing has a lot to do with it,” he said.


Everett, Burgess. “Senate GOP’s plan to eat up floor time”. Politico. 10 September 2014.

Somashekhar, Sandhya. “GOP Senate hopefuls favor over-the-counter birth control”. The Washington Post. 2 September 2014.

Benen, Steve. “The GOP’s contraception solution is no silver bullet”. 8 September 2014.

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