Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday accused Democrats of running the Senate like a wing of the Democratic campaign, by delivering political speeches that criticize Republicans and failing to pass any major legislation.
“Instead of a strong, independent voice at the vanguard of American policymaking, what has the Democratic-run Senate become?” McConnell asked on the Senate floor. “A campaign studio. A late-night punchline.”
“The place where the far-left gets its way, and the middle class gets left behind,” he added. “Under Democratic rule, the Senate has become a place where serious legislation comes to die, a graveyard for good ideas.”
McConnell cited the energy bill the Senate considered on Monday as a prime example of the Democrats’ failure to work with Republicans to pass legislation. On Monday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected a GOP request to consider five amendments to the energy bill, which prompted most Republicans to vote down the bill in a procedural vote.
McConnell said Tuesday that Reid spiked both Republican and Democratic amendments to that bill.
“He didn’t seem to care about letting the more than 4 million people in my state have a say on one of the most important issues affecting their livelihoods, coal,” McConnell said. “And he didn’t seem to think the millions of Americans represented by his own Democrats deserved a meaningful say on energy either.”
Republicans have complained for several months now that Democrats are refusing to allow almost any Republican amendments on a range of bills. According to Senate aides, the Senate has voted on just nine GOP amendments since last July.
They also note that over the same time period in the GOP-led House, Democrats have gotten 125 amendment votes.
Democrats have accused Republicans of using the amendment process to slow down legislation and say Republicans routinely filibuster bills.
But Republicans say they are only blocking bills now because of their inability to alter legislative proposals that come to the floor. McConnell noted that the Washington Post last week said President Barack Obama was wrong when he said Republicans have filibustered 500 bills.
“The charges that have been made against Republican filibusters [were] given the highest rating for dishonesty by a left-leaning newspaper,” he said.
The lack of amendments became a prominent issue last year during consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill setting defense priorities. The Senate pushed that bill through with no amendments, which drew complaints from Republicans who said the NDAA had never been pushed through without any changes or opportunity for debate.
McConnell said Monday that instead of working across the aisle, Democrats are mostly delivering speeches about issues they care about. But even here, Democrats are failing to do anything meaningful.
“Think back to last week when Senate Democrats declared that addressing global warming … was moral crusade of our time, then refused to even debate or consider legislative measures to actually address it,” he said.
McConnell said Democrats seem to have frozen the work of the Senate on purpose in order to protect Obama from ideas he opposes.
“That’s the main reason why President Obama wants so badly to keep his Senate majority this November,” he said. “It’s his castle moat. It’s the last thing standing between him and having to sign serious legislation the middle class deserves, but the far-left hates.”
Senate Republicans have criticized the Democrats’ handling of Senate procedure for the last several years, but say it’s gotten worse over the last six months or so.
Last November, Democrats invoked the so-called “nuclear option,” which allows Democrats to advance the Obama administration’s nominees with a simple majority vote, instead of the 60 votes that had been required.
The simple majority vote means Democrats can advance nominees whenever they want, and regardless of GOP opposition. Democrats say this change was needed because Republicans routinely blocked nominations.
But Republicans said the rate of Senate clearance for nominations was in line with past presidents, and said Democrats overreacted in a way that essentially guts the historical rights of the minority party the Senate.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has argued that nominees are responding by not answering questions from Republican senators, because they know they don’t have to gain support from any GOP senators to be confirmed.
Republicans have responded to this change in decades-old Senate rules by requiring the chamber to take as much time as possible before nomination votes can happen.