Just say no. That seems to sum up the position of Republicans in the Congress these days. For all the talk about bipartisan compromise or about the two parties working together, at the end of the day, the Republican position is simply to say no.
The scope of what they won’t do is breathtaking.
They say no to expanding support for day care, vital in an economy where both parents must work. They say no to investing in renewable energy and electric cars. They say no to renovating America’s decrepit and outmoded infrastructure, including clean and safe drinking water. They say no to democracy reforms and ending secret money in politics. They just say no.
It doesn’t matter how popular the issue is. Most Americans want sensible gun control laws. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of Republicans support background checks for all sales of guns, including those at gun shows. When it comes to passing the reforms, Republicans in both Houses just say no.
It doesn’t matter if it is simply about basic fairness. Fifty-five of America’s biggest corporations paid no federal income taxes last year and the wealth of just 650 billionaires rose by 50%, all while millions of working Americans suffered. Two-thirds of Americans support raising taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year, as Joe Biden has proposed. Republicans in both Houses reject any tax increase on corporations or the wealthy, including the 82% benefit that went to the top 1% and 63% that went to the top one-tenth of 1% of Trump’s only major legislative accomplishment in 2017.
It doesn’t matter if the reform is about meeting a threat to our existence. Catastrophic climate change already takes lives and costs this country billions of dollars each year - and it gets worse annually. Scientists give us about 10 years to make the transition to renewable energy. Joe Biden has proposed a modest investment in renewable energy, electric cars and retrofitting homes. His proposal is far less than scientists say is needed, far less even from what he promised during his campaign. He’s already compromised in the face of expected Republican opposition. But Republicans just say no.
It doesn’t matter if the reform is essential to human life and to equal justice under the law. Most Americans support police reform, including a federal ban on chokeholds (71%), a prohibition of racial profiling (71%), and an end to “qualified immunity” for officers in legal cases (59%). For decades and currently Congress hasn’t been able to pass an anti-lynching law. Efforts to pass reforms meet with — no surprise now — almost universal Republican opposition.
It doesn’t even matter if the measure is a bipartisan bill to have an independent bipartisan commission investigate sacking the Capitol and the attempt to stop certification of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6. Even though their lives and limbs were at risk, Senate Republicans lined up in support of a filibuster to just say no.
Republicans use efforts to find common ground to stall progress before lining up to say no. They make big gestures that turn out on inspection just to be jive. For example, the biggest “bipartisan” negotiations are over Joe Biden’s Americans Jobs Bill, which Republicans oppose. Biden called for $2.3 trillion over eight years to invest in rebuilding America, kickstarting the transition to sustainable energy, and ensuring quality affordable day care, essential if parents are to go back to work. In April, Republicans offered a laughable $568 billion over five years, stripping virtually everything but roads and bridges from their proposal (and most of that was already in the budget).
Biden compromised, cutting $552 billion out of his proposal. Republicans got headlines for going up to $953 billion — only that was a feint. As the analysis of the invaluable Congressional Progressive Caucus Action Fund showed, the second Republican offer was spread out over eight years. And they proposed to pay for most of that by taking funds previously appropriated to deal with the pandemic and its victims over the next years. In spending per year, the actual change in the second proposal over the first was just $2 billion a year. That isn’t a good faith negotiation; that’s a joke.
Republicans don’t want corporations or the wealthy to pay more in taxes. They don’t want to raise the minimum wage. They oppose reforms that would make it easier for workers to organize and bargain collectively. In 20 states, Republican governors are cutting off federal unemployment insurance, hoping to force people to take low-paying jobs. They don’t want to revive the Voting Rights Act; they want to further suppress the vote. They don’t want to limit the role of big money in elections or end gerrymandering of districts to their benefit. This list can go on.
Republicans celebrate the economy of 2018 under Donald Trump before the pandemic. Yet that was an economy in which 40% of Americans had negative net incomes, and were forced to borrow to pay for basic household needs. That was an economy that subsidized fossil fuels and ignored the threat posed by climate change. That was an economy that forced parents into debt to pay for day care, forced students into debt to pay for college, and forced Americans to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, even those that were created on the taxpayer’s dime.
Of course, when they run for re-election, Republicans will take credit for Biden’s American Rescue Plan that was passed without one Republican vote. No one should be fooled. At a time when America faces cascading crises, Republicans just say no. If we want even to begin to address the troubles we have, voters will have to say no to those who are standing in the way.