Republicans have settled on their procedural weapon of choice for this Congress — and they have it trained squarely on Democrats anxious about their 2024 prospects.
Twice in the past week, Republicans scored wins and divided Democrats by employing an arcane maneuver known as a resolution of disapproval to take aim at policies that they oppose and see as political vulnerabilities for Democrats, using the measures to amplify their message.
The biggest victory came on Thursday, when President Biden told Senate Democrats that he would sign a Republican-led resolution blocking the District of Columbia’s new criminal code if it reached his desk. It was a reversal from his earlier opposition and a frank acknowledgment that Republicans had gotten the better of Democrats on the hot-button topic of violent crime.
It is somewhat unusual for the president to have to confront legislation he opposes when his party controls at least part of the Congress — in this case the Senate — since his allies on Capitol Hill can usually bottle up legislation they don’t like and spare him from a veto or a tough decision.
But the beauty of a resolution of disapproval is that it has special status in the Senate. It can’t be kept off the floor by the majority leader and is not subject to the filibuster, providing a blunt political instrument for lawmakers if they can assemble a simple majority. That is because of the Congressional Review Act, enacted in 1996 after Republicans took power on Capitol Hill, which created the process that allows Congress to upend federal rules.
With little power to set the Senate agenda, Republicans regard the tactic as a handy way to score legislative victories and force Democrats to debate subjects they would rather avoid.