Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Congressman and a Senator

In "Why are no senators boycotting the inauguration? National ambition is part of it." Paul Kane misses the point of this action by House members. First of all, it's not really a boycott. Traditionally, a boycott as defined by Wikipedia is "an act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for social or political reasons." A boycott generally connotes application of some economic leverage - using buying power to try to effect some action.
This is more of a "sit-out". Like a sit-in, a sit-out is an attempt by those with little power to garner attention to their cause, but in this case -- by their absence. The sit-out follows logically from the sit-in last summer by House minority members, also led by Lewis,  as protest against the failure of the House to take up gun legislation. House Democratic members have virtually no remaining power to influence legislation.

Democratic Senators continue to hold some power. The 52-48 Senate is more closely divided than the House and several Senators are more likely to join the minority on some issues. As long as the filibuster remains in force, the Democratic Senators at least have some power. For Senate Democrats, showing up at the Inauguration is of critical importance. Showing up is a strong statement that from their point of view, "we have not lost our government".

Paul Kane may know this - hence the wishy-washy subtitle "National ambition is part of it." But the real story is not the ambition of certain senators - it's the big difference between a Senator in the minority and a House member in the minority and now, just how weak the House minority is.
We can expect to see activist House members continue to seek alternative venues and methods to call attention to their causes because they can have little if any direct impact on legislation.

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