It hasn’t escaped the notice of most Americans that, to put it mildly, things in the country are not going well. But one group of people hasn’t seemed to pick up on it, yet: Congress. To be more precise, the Republican-led Senate.
As American cities burn, police departments across the country come under assault, the culture feasts on itself in a frenzy of Twitter-driven cancellations, Google controls the presentation of information for 90 percent of the world, Twitter gets hacked by the Saudi government, Planned Parenthood reaps millions in CARES Act money it wasn’t supposed to get, the “conservative” majority on the Supreme Court kicks people of faith in the teeth, and China sends Uyghur Muslims to concentration camps while exerting massive censorship influence over U.S. corporations, Congress has been on vacation for the last two weeks.
In reality, the House of Representatives has been on vacation for much longer than that. Attendance has been optional in the People’s House for so long that Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.) recently cast a vote in committee while “working from home”—either on a beach or a boat.
The Republican Senate has been showing up for work. Or, what work looks like to the Senate, which is about 2.5 days a week of confirming a handful of judges in between accidentally legislating.
The Senate’s fecklessness is less a bug than a feature of the 116th Congress. But for the conservatives among their constituents, it is more outrageous than ever, considering that Senate Republicans may be in the waning days of power.
And it’s not just that Republicans may lose the majority in November. It’s that the result—for Republicans, conservatives, people of faith, small businesses, and anyone who enjoys living in a pluralistic society where tolerance of multiple viewpoints is the norm—will be to lose everything.
Senate Democrats have made it very clear they intend to eliminate the legislative filibuster should they win the Senate in November. If it comes to that, the Senate effectively will turn into a chamber just as majoritarian as the House, with the minority party’s ability to influence legislative outcomes drastically diminished. An untethered Democratic Senate would unleash a parade of horribles: packing the Supreme Court, ending America’s energy economy with the Green New Deal, banishing religious liberty, and so forth.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Republican Senate is all that is standing between us and a Democratic Party that wants to remake our congressional institutions in a way that allows them to remake society.
Is the Republican Senate Alive?
And yet it is unclear if anyone in the Republican Senate recognizes this. The Senate has been on recess for two weeks. As the country burned, they spent two weeks in June passing a bill to expand federal ownership of public lands—essentially an overt bid to get Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) reelected.
After Democrats filibustered the GOP’s police reform bill, the Senate blithely washed its hands of anything having to do with the raging culture war, the betrayal of the conservative Supreme Court, or the corporate social media takeover of speech and information and instead turned to the National Defense Authorization Act. Naturally, the troops need to be funded, as apparently do America’s many ill-considered wars and the hive of obscenely rich contractors whose campaign donations make the Washington world go round.
All told, the Senate has roughly seven to eight weeks, maybe less, left in their legislative calendar before November, with nothing on the docket except military funding, an extension of government funding, and another sub-trillion-dollar bill to address the COVID-19 pandemic. (And also this very important Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on ocean plastics.)
Voters Want to See Republicans Face the Mob, Unbowed
The Republican Senate expects Americans to come out and vote for them—for what?
Republicans in the Senate have precious little time to show the American people that they’re actually still alive; still a party that pays attention; that they look up occasionally and remember who sent them to Washington, and who pays their salaries.
At a time when conservative and Republican voters across the country are looking to their institutions to lead, Republicans in the Senate could step up and actually decide to run the place.
All of them—every single Republican senator from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on down—has the power to force votes to defend the police, diminish China’s influence, take a stand for people of faith, enforce consequences against Planned Parenthood’s likely criminality, or push back against the corporate takeover of speech, privacy, market access, and independent thought.
Whether they can win all of these votes isn’t the point. Having them is. Letting voters know that the people elected to represent them are, at a bare minimum, not willfully ignoring the societal turmoil would be a baseline effort—but a welcome one.
Yes, it will be hard. Senate Democrats will probably say mean things. They will, as Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) did when Mike Lee (R-Utah) stood up to condemn mob violence, use the procedures of the Senate to try to cancel Republican speech.
Great. Perfect. What voters desperately want to see—what they need to see—is Republicans unbowed in the face of woke assaults and progressive tantrums. Many times in politics the outcome isn’t the thing—the very act of trying, of digging in your heels and drawing a line in the sand, is enough. As Ben Domenech put it recently, “The thirst among Republican voters isn’t even for policy. It’s for seeing the politicians they elected join the fray.”
There is a fire raging in all corners of the society, and the one Republican-led institution we badly need to stand up for America seems distracted, preoccupied, and, frankly, fearful. But we elect our legislators for times such as these; to be the leaders and statesmen who stand up and say “Enough. Not on my watch.” We need them to courageously defend the wholly American virtues of equality under the law, of justice for all, and to ferociously protect the freedom of individual Americans from the tyranny of mobs, the authoritarian thought control of woke corporations, and the corrupt power of the state.
But so far, we have a Republican Senate that only rouses itself every now and again to pass more corporate tax relief, mumble something about the inherent moral virtue of “private business,” or wave aimlessly in the direction of more war and spy-state bureaucracy.
America’s foundational values are being torn down, canceled, and erased from our culture. Wake up, senators. You have just a handful of weeks to remind us why you’re relevant.