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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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Leadership war stymies Senate mission

From The Washington Post:

The Senate went three months this spring without voting on a single legislative amendment, the nitty-gritty kind of work usually at the heart of congressional lawmaking. So few bills have been approved this year, and so little else has gotten done, that many senators say they are spending most of their time on insignificant and unrewarding work.

The big issues have been sidelined by political and procedural battles and an intensely personal war between the leadership offices.

Senators say that they increasingly feel like pawns caught between Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose deep personal and political antagonisms have almost immobilized the Senate.

The two men so distrust each other, and each is so determined to deny the other even the smallest political success, that their approach to running the Senate has been reduced to a campaign of mutually assured dysfunction.

If Reid allowed the free-flowing give-and-take that defined the Senate of the past, his endangered Democratic incumbents would be forced to vote on carefully crafted GOP amendments designed to hurt them in November. He refuses to do that.

If McConnell were to work with Reid to allow the Senate to function more smoothly and effectively, he would undermine a key component of the Republican campaign argument this fall: that Democrats have mismanaged the Senate and the GOP must take over.

Almost every week has the same rhythm: confirm appointees Monday night, consider a Democratic bill that will fail without any real debate, then confirm a few more nominees. By 2 p.m. each Thursday, most senators are en route to the airports. In June, senators cast 53 votes, but only seven were related to legislation; the rest were on nominations.

This past week brought mild progress. A program to protect insurance companies from a mass terrorism event won overwhelming approval, 93 to 4, and Republicans offered two amendments, but the legislation was crafted at the highest levels and was given about one hour of debate Thursday afternoon. The average senator had no input into the bill.

Yet Reid has unwavering support from all corners of his caucus, as does McConnell. Many Democrats believe the Senate discord has less to do with the status of the Reid-McConnell relationship and more to do with the growing fractures inside the national Republican Party. A half-dozen Republicans, including McConnell, faced tea-party-backed opponents in primaries, leading several to stake out staunch conservative positions.

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