Gridlock in the Senate basically Harry Reid’s fault

If you listen to hardline Democrats in the Senate, Republicans are to blame for the gridlock that has slowed movement on legislation and, until recently, confirmation of President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive appointees.

Though it’s true that Republicans aren’t receptive to President Obama’s agenda, the root cause of the friction between the two parties ultimately lies at the feet of one person: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Not only has the Democratic leader severely limited minority rights in a chamber that thrives on tradition, Reid has also soured the atmosphere by limiting the number of amendments that senators can offer to legislation, which one of the reasons there has been so much tension between the two parties:

Republicans direct much of their ire at Reid, the hard-nosed majority leader who seeks to protect vulnerable Democrats from tough votes on hot-button issues like health care, the Keystone XL pipeline and abortion. More than any other leader before him, Reid has closed off the amendment process by an arcane procedural maneuver known as “filling the tree,” prompting howls of protest from GOP senators who complain they’ve been shut out of the process.

While Reid says he has no choice but to cut off amendment votes because Republicans will not deal with him in good faith, his strategy cuts both ways. When Reid closes off the consideration of amendments, ideas from Democrats are also stifled, preventing them from offering legislation they can tout to voters back home.
The value of simply having a vote on an amendment cannot be overstated to some senators. Last year, when negotiators agreed to slip an amendment from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) into the sweeping immigration bill, Portman balked because he wanted a separate roll call vote on his proposal. But if Reid offered Portman a vote on the bill, he would have to offer votes to everyone else. The end result: Portman’s so-called e-verify plan didn’t get a vote, and he didn’t support the immigration bill.

Earlier this month, Reid embraced an altered version of Portman’s amendment to the jobless benefits bill that would prevent people from drawing both unemployment and disability benefits. But after Reid limited amendments on the bill, Portman dismissed it as a “take-it-or-leave-it” proposition from Democrats and ended up voting to block the unemployment bill over concerns about how it was paid for.
Before last week’s recess, the final offer from Reid on the unemployment bill was to vote on amendments from each party that could win adoption only if they cleared a 60-vote threshold as long as Republicans agreed not to filibuster the bill on final passage. This was immediately dismissed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his caucus as a rule-bending offer they could never accept.

By limiting the traditional process through which business has been done in the chamber, Republicans feel that they have been pushed to the side, and understandably so. Whether Reid wants to acknowledge it or not, the members on the other side of the aisle are representing the concerns of their constituents just as much as any Democrat.

If Reid would simply allow more Republican amendments, perhaps filibuster threats would be as a prominent. But, then again, that wouldn’t play into the phony narrative that he’s tried to sell to voters, which is, basically, blame gridlock on conservative Republicans.

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