If you want to understand why the American people don’t trust Congress, take a careful look at what happened this week in the Senate.
 
On Thursday, for the third time this year, Senate Democrats voted against a measure that would have allowed the upper chamber to begin debating a spending bill to fund the Department of Defense for FY2016. And then, after voting unanimously to advance a separate spending bill for military construction and veterans programs – who’s going to vote “no” the week before Veteran’s Day? – the Senate promptly convened for a three-and-a-half-day weekend.
 
After the vote, in an attempt to justify his party’s pattern of obstruction, the Minority Leader explained that his Democratic conference has repeatedly blocked the defense appropriations bill because it opposes the Republican majority’s broader approach to funding the government.
 
Well of course there are serious and meaningful differences of opinion between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate regarding how Congress ought to fund the government. But the American people won’t have an opportunity to hear their elected representatives discuss those differences of opinion in a substantive, robust debate, so long as Senate Democrats continue their craven strategy of blocking procedural votes and Senate Republicans fail to break their habit of acquiescence. 
 
And herein lies the source of the public’s distrust of Congress: for most people, the problem isn’t that there’s too much fighting in Washington, but that all the fighting seems so staged.
 
Like the old rivalries in “professional” wrestling, it’s obvious the two sides disagree, but, aside from the bluster and boilerplate that precede and follow every fight, it’s never clear exactly what they believe.
 
With wrestling, people accepted the scripted, choreographed conflict as part of the game. But with politics in the Senate, they reject it as unbecoming of what is supposed to be the world’s most deliberative body.
 
According to the Senate rules, the minority party has every right to block legislation from consideration with just forty-one votes. But a filibuster of one of the majority’s legislative priorities should be seen as the beginning, not the end, of the fight. It should be met with equally hardball tactics, like cancelling recess and weekends home, or scheduling floor votes at inconvenient times that cut back on senators’ time to fundraise, campaign, or sleep.
 
Most of us, most of the time aren’t going to agree. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss our differences in an open, robust debate. The Senate was designed to foster exactly that kind of deliberation, but the only way to get it working again is, well, Senators working. 
"And herein lies the source of the public’s distrust of Congress: for most people, the problem isn’t that there’s too much fighting in Washington, but that all the fighting seems so staged."
With wrestling, people accepted the scripted, choreographed conflict as part of the game. But with politics in the Senate, they reject it as unbecoming of what is supposed to be the world’s most deliberative body.
 
According to the Senate rules, the minority party has every right to block legislation from consideration with just forty-one votes. But a filibuster of one of the majority’s legislative priorities should be seen as the beginning, not the end, of the fight. It should be met with equally hardball tactics, like cancelling recess and weekends home, or scheduling floor votes at inconvenient times that cut back on senators’ time to fundraise, campaign, or sleep.
 
Most of us, most of the time aren’t going to agree. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss our differences in an open, robust debate. The Senate was designed to foster exactly that kind of deliberation, but the only way to get it working again is, well, Senators working.