Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


Do They Ever Vote for the 'Greater Good' in Washington?

By Rob Tenery, MD on December 4, 2017

With fifty-two Senators claiming allegiance to the Republican Party, it seemed only logical after Trump won the presidency that their Party would be able to fast track their agenda. Even taking into account up to two outliers, by adding Vice-President Mike Pence’s tie breaking vote, the Party’s proposed legislation should be sailing through the Senate. Now with Party’s tax bill win in the Senate and confirming Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the Republican Party may finally be moving their agenda ahead.

When candidates announce their quest for public office, except those who run as independents, they are implying that they align with a particular Party’s platform. In most cases, voters supporting that same platform also elect them. There may a random issue in which either does not agree, but that is the exception and not the rule.

Unlike the Congressional Democrats that always seem to vote in lockstep, the Republican Senators just couldn’t seem to get their act together until the tax bill. Trump has issued Executive Orders, since day one, reversing much of what Obama had put in place when he was in the White House. Much of what Trump had campaigned and won on have either been frozen by the Federal court of Appeals or stalled in the Senate.

Considerable blame has been directed toward Senator Mitch McConnell for not keeping ‘his troops in line’ as has Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. This raises the question of what role our elected representatives should play once they get to Washington. Do they vote the will of the constituency that sent them there, their conscience, stand with their Party or depend on making a decision on an issue once all the facts are in? Although there are arguments for all these positions, some flexibility must be allowed. With virtually no crossing the aisle, so far, on the major issues of health care reform and new tax legislation, the Democrats are obviously sticking with Party loyalty.

Not so on the Republican side in the Senate. If three or more Senators bolt the Party’s position, the proposed legislation goes nowhere. There are nine Republican Senators whose names keep popping up when it comes to Party unity that on one major piece of legislation or another that has not stuck by the Party’s recommendation. They are John McCain from Arizona, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, Rand Paul from Kentucky, Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, Ted Cruz from Texas, Mike Lee from Utah, Susan Collins from Maine, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, and Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee, who still held his support on the tax bill.

Currently, the only unity that seems to be going on in Washington is with the Democrats.  And they are getting something accomplished--- blocking President Trump’s agenda. To back their position of stagnation, enough Republican Senators have defied their Party leadership’s recommendations to keep many legislative initiatives from getting out of the Senate, except for passage of the tax proposal late last week.

Many are saying that McConnell should step down as the Senate Majority Leader. The dilemma runs much deeper than just wanting to replace McConnell, or even Paul Ryan. It goes back to seniority, to committee appointments and just learning how to navigate in the Washington establishment. It also goes back to term limits. Without them, they are aware that any position they take can affect their chances in the next election cycle.

Our representatives are caught in between those who elected them and the leadership, once they take up their duties in Washington. Strangely, something seems to have been lost in the nation’s capital. It’s not what’s good for the representative, the Party or even the administration. It’s what once was called the ‘greater good’*.

Maybe that’s just a bygone pipe dream. At least, we can hope not!

 * For the benefit of the many, not the few. It is something that may not benefit the individual personally, but may benefit the human race as a whole.





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