Petulance on parade

The rules of etiquette, as we recall from elementary school, frowned on temper tantrums by the losers in any playground competition. But, even if some defeated competitor stomped off the field in anger, it would have been unthinkable for that person to try to stop a new and unrelated contest.

Too bad the rules in Congress don’t require at least that level of maturity.

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill have been acting worse than petulant playground combatants this week, in the wake of Sunday’s passage of health care reform legislation. They have gone so far as to block Senate hearings on bills totally unrelated to the health care legislation — bills such as Sen. Mark Udall’s bark-beetle measure. The legislation would provide important aid to Colorado mountian communities, and those in other states, that are threatened by wildfires from bark-beetle infestations which have devastated nearby forests.

Udall’s bill was scheduled for a hearing in a Senate committee this week, but that hearing was blocked by Republicans using an arcane rule to stop any hearing from beginning more than two hours after the start of the Senate’s daily session.

Republican anger over the health care reform bill is understandable. After all, it was passed without a single GOP vote, nearly all Republican reform ideas were left out of the bill, and Democrats used a procedural dodge to avoid having to obtain 60 Senate votes for a revamped bill.

No wonder the Republicans are fighting over every paragraph in the reconciliation bill now being debated to amend the bill passed by the House on Sunday and signed by the president Tuesday.

But what possible purpose is served by stalling a hearing on Udall’s bill, and other legislation unrelated to health care? Udall’s measure is not partisan. His cosponsor is Idaho Republican Sen. James Risch. It would provide additional money for the U.S. Forest Service to thin stands of infested trees near mountain communities that are threatened with wildfires. It protects people in those communities, regardless of their political affiliation.

GOP senators know the bill will eventually get a hearing — and it will be passed, we hope. All the Republicans have done is delay it unnecessarily, perhaps enough to prevent needed work that could be authorized under the bill from being undertaken this summer.
Udall has every right to be angry about the delay.

Moreover, the delaying tactic on measures unrelated to health care will do little to boost GOP election fortunes.

It’s true that polls show large numbers of Americans disapprove of the way Democrats have handled health care. That includes many independents, and centrists of both parties. But poll after poll also has indicated those same people are fed up with the hyper-partisan bickering in Congress. They want politicians to work together for all citizens, not just their own party.

Those voters may be angry with Democrats, but they won’t find much appealing in the latest GOP temper tantrum.


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