House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Mary.) offered a lengthy and searing rebuke of Republican leadership on Monday, claiming the minority party has traded an honest seat at the negotiating table for outright obstructionism.
Speaking before the Center for American Progress, the Maryland Democrat touched on many Democratic complaints about the friction inherent in the legislative process today. Further, he also expressed concern about the damage that obstructionism was causing to the institution of Congress as a whole.
"I also know, in closing, how easy it is to accuse me of being disingenuous for even making this argument," Hoyer said, according to prepared remarks. "It's easy to say that Democrats actually want extremism to be the face of the opposition--that we would be happy for the 'Party of No' to keep saying no. But that's not true. When we say no to the work of legislating, we do real harm to the institution of Congress and our nation's future."
"[T]he hard choices that are being forced on our country demand engagement from both parties," Hoyer added. "I'm thinking of challenges like reforming our massive entitlement programs, controlling the growth of health care spending, and responding to climate change -- issues that are fraught with political risk and so easy to demagogue that it is almost impossible for one party to take them on alone. Those challenges are dangerously likely to stay untouched as long as at least one party is willing to be a 'Party of No.'"
Hoyer's logic was two-fold. By removing itself from earnest negotiation, the GOP has ensured a less substantive debate or, as he put it, "empty exercises." Secondly, when Congress finds itself deadlocked, it essentially makes the body itself "less relevant every day."
Others have observed this paradigm in various legislative debates. Consumed by political infighting, Congress has lost institutional coherence and power over the last few decades. As Ezra Klein recently noted in the Washington Post:
It means power devolves from the legislature and towards unelected, unaccountable organizations like the Federal Reserve, the EPA, the super MedPAC commission, or the courts. It means that the American people become frustrated with politics because the lever they think gets things done -- the presidency -- seems continually ineffective. It means that Congress falls out of practice at generating solutions to problems, and you develop the strange situation in which it appears to serve the president's agenda, as opposed to the president waiting for congressional action (people would find it peculiar, for instance, if Congress was carrying on with a serious health-care reform effort if Barack Obama was not also engaged in the subject).