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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Reid’s Uncompromising Power Play in Senate Rankles Republicans - With his strong-armed change to the filibuster rule and an iron-fisted control of the Senate floor, Senator Harry Reid has engaged in the greatest consolidation of congressional power since Newt Gingrich ruled the House, unleashing a bitterness that may derail efforts to extend unemployment insurance

From The New York Times:

With his strong-armed change to the filibuster rule and an iron-fisted control of the Senate floor, Senator Harry Reid has engaged in the greatest consolidation of congressional power since Newt Gingrich ruled the House, unleashing a bitterness that may derail efforts to extend unemployment insurance.

Mr. Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, on Thursday dismissed all proposed Republican amendments to the unemployment extension, even those drafted by Republicans who had handed Democrats a victory on Tuesday by voting to take up the bill.

“We get nowhere with dueling amendments,” Mr. Reid declared.

A Republican effort to try to reopen the amendment process failed on a party-line vote, 42 to 54, setting up a showdown next week that is likely to end in the bill’s demise, Democrats conceded.

To Democrats, it was a typical Reid show of force in the face of unfair Republican amendments. To Republicans, it was only the latest — and one of the boldest — slaps in the face.

“I’m just kind of fed up,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a moderate Republican who has increasingly become a key vote for Democratic legislation. “He’s a leader. Why is he not leading this Senate? Why is he choosing to ignore the fact that he has a minority party that he needs to work with, that actually has some decent ideas? Why is he bringing down the institution of the Senate?”

Mr. Reid’s brutish style matters beyond the marbled chamber of the Senate. Senate legislation has increasingly turned into a battle over amendments and Mr. Reid’s uncompromising control over the process. The six Republicans who voted to take up the unemployment bill on Tuesday expected at least to be allowed votes on their amendments to shape the legislation.

Instead, Mr. Reid dismissed all Republican proposals as unacceptable and then proposed his own new unemployment deal. Under it, benefits would be extended until mid-November of this year, and paid for largely by extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare health providers in 2024. Republicans were outraged, and an obscure procedural fight is likely to leave up to three million out-of-work Americans without benefits.

“We need to be able to have votes on behalf of our states,” said Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, who was denied a vote on her amendment to pay for the extension by requiring applicants for the child tax credit to have Social Security numbers, a proposal Mr. Reid declared an attack on children. “I don’t know what the issue is, unless you are afraid it will pass.”

Ms. Murkowski said that she was unlikely to support the bill.

The unemployment bill is only the most recent example of legislation that has become stuck in a procedural quagmire, affecting senators in both parties. A long-awaited showdown between two Democratic senators, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, over the military’s approach to sexual assault fizzled late last year when they were denied any votes on an annual military policy bill that usually is shaped over weeks on the Senate floor. A bipartisan bill on Iran sanctions has yet to receive floor consideration. And Democrats, eager to replace a tax on medical devices that helps pay for the Affordable Care Act, have been denied a vote.

“I would like to take one of the bipartisan bills and allow for a more open amendment process,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and a primary sponsor of the medical device tax repeal. “I think that would be a good way to do it and more forward.”

For their part, Republicans have received all of four amendment votes since mid-July.

Rankled by the Republican criticism, Mr. Reid said in an interview that Republicans refused to agree to any reasonable limit on amendments despite his overtures.

“So we get nothing done, which is their goal anyway,” Mr. Reid said.

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