The national unemployment rate has lingered at 8.3 percent, provoking the House last week to overwhelmingly pass The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, a bill aimed at making it easier for small businesses to hire workers. While approved in the lower house last Thursday, the bill had yet to be taken up in the Senate by Wednesday afternoon. Why you ask?
Senate Democrats led by Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid were content on conducting no other business than 17 grueling votes in a row on President Obama's judicial nominations to fill vacant judgeships. Senate Republicans accused the move as obstructive and a "manufactured crisis" to forward the narrative of a do-nothing Republican Congress at the expense of needed action to address the economy.
“It strikes me with the jobs emergency we have in this country … the thing to do is to pocket this broad bipartisan bill and try to create jobs immediately,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. “The majority leader has insisted instead we are going to precipitate a fight.
“Rather then try to manufacture gridlock and create the illusion of conflict where none exists, why don’t we demonstrate we can kind of get something done together?”
AP reports that Senate Democrats complained that Sen. McConnell and the Republicans were slow-walking the list of nominees, even those arousing no objections. POLITICO notes that the Senate this year has voted to confirm seven of Obama’s judicial nominees.
Roughly the same number confirmed by this time last year.
After days of bickering, the standoff was ended Wednesday afternoon. The two sides agreed to debate the small-business bill on the condition that the Senate would vote on a total of 14 noncontroversial nominees by May 7, a dozen of them to U.S. District Court seats and a pair to the U.S. Circuit Court.
Before the deal, POLITICO reported that several GOP senators were prepared to take the unprecedented step of filibustering the district court nominations as a means to refocus the chamber on jobs and the economy.
During a heated speech Wednesday morning, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions charged that Senate Democrats were obstructing legislation that would address the budget, energy, tax reform, small business growth proposals and other more pertinent issues than confirming judicial nominees.
"This is the body that’s not doing its job" Sen. Sessions said.