“I’d like to focus for a few minutes on the way the Senate is being run,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said at a news conference on Tuesday.
He criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for breaking Senate rules to “jam” through nominations and legislation.
“So as we end the year, it’s a tragedy the way the Senate is being run into the ground by basically one person. And I hope that one of the majority leader’s new year’s resolutions is going to be to operate the Senate in a quite different manner.”
McConnell is upset that the Senate will take up a defense authorization bill on Wednesday without allowing amendments.
“This is obviously to protect the administration from having a vote on enhanced sanctions on Iran,” McConnell said. “But it also disadvantages all the members of the Senate, on both the Democrat and Republican side. So the effort once again will be to fill up the tree, prevent members from offering amendments, jam it through, centralize the power in the majority leader’s office.”
Wednesday’s vote on the defense authorization bill follows Senate approval of “a whole slew of nominations, none of which were emergencies,” McConnell noted.
To confirm President Obama’s judicial nominees over Republican objections, Harry Reid changed Senate rules last month, reducing the number of votes needed to end a filibuster. By requiring a simple majority vote for most judicial nominations, Reid and his fellow Democrats made it impossible for Republicans to block those nominees.
The move has embittered McConnell:
“It’s going to be hard to get the Senate back to normal,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s only been a few years ago under different leadership when we were open for amendment. Members got a chance to express themselves. We got a great number of members now on both sides of the aisle who wonder why they’re here. Work they do in committee is rarely if ever paid attention to. No amendments are allowed on the floor. The power’s all centralized in the office of one person.
“It’s a big step in the wrong direction for our country, and it can really be changed, essentially, by the behavior of one person. Just one person changing behavior can move the Senate back in a different direction.”
At a news conference of his own on Tuesday, Sen. Reid said he’s “very happy” that 12 Republicans voted with Democrats to advance the Ryan-Murray budget deal.
“We have a lot to do before Christmas, but we can get it done. We just need a little bit of cooperation from Republicans on other issues before us. If not, we’re going to face another long series of votes that’ll bring us to the weekend and at least the first part of next week.
“Gridlock has got to end,” Reid continued. “And it is ending. And the American people are satisfied that we’re moving forward. We got this — for the first time probably since 1986, we had a bipartisan budget agreement. That’s progress. And we’re going to continue working hard.”
Reid said the Senate “could complete all of our work by Thursday,” but he also said that’s “entirely up to the Republicans.”
In the new year, Reid said he hopes the Senate can get back to passing legislation, “bill by bill.”
“That’s what we’ve done in the past. We haven’t done in the last few years because there’s been too much obstruction. Otherwise, what’s coming to us, if the Republicans continue this, we’re just shoveling to the executive branch ever more power.”