Yesterday, Senate Republicans attempted a procedural fast-track on the bipartisan Keystone XL jobs and infrastructure bill. The goal, according to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was to immediately begin processing amendments to the controversial bill with the end goal of getting it to the President as soon as possible.
McConnell asked for unanimous consent to proceed with consideration of the bill, noting that amendments would be accepted from both sides of the aisle. The problem? Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) objected.
Instead of being able to move forward immediately, Leader McConnell was forced to file cloture on the motion to proceed with the bill; this means that unless Senator Whitehouse drops his objection, the next vote on the bill will have to wait until 5:30 on Monday.
What a petty start to the 114th Congress. In prepared remarks from earlier this week, Harry Reid insisted that, “[t]he mistakes of the past, the gratuitous obstruction and wanton filibustering will not be a hallmark of the Democratic minority in the 114th Congress.” (Apparently, we’re meant to have forgotten the hundreds of bills and amendments that suffered and died in the hands of then-Majority Leader Reid.)
This move by Whitehouse was everything Reid claims to have abandoned as part of his floor strategy; but while it may have been petty, it may not make much of a difference when the bill finally comes up for a vote.
Reid isn’t alone in his desire to put politics before policy, but several Democrats have abandoned their caucus to throw their support behind Keystone:
The bill now has 54 Republican and six Democratic co-sponsors: Sens. Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Mark Warner (Va.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).
They also say three other Democrats, Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.), who voted to approve the Canada-to-Texas pipeline in November, are likely to back it.
Those 63 votes would be more than enough to send a bill to Obama. But it’s not enough support to override a veto.
A few Democrats joined Republicans in expressing disappointment with the White House.
“I am disappointed that the president will not allow this Congress to turn over a new leaf and engage in the legislative process to improve an important piece of legislation,” Manchin said.
Manchin isn’t the only one who spoke up publicly. Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) also expressed optimism about a McConnell-run Senate, saying “I welcome what Senator McConnell, our new majority leader, has envisioned as a more active floor in the Senate where we do not run into lengthy and repeated filibusters but bring amendments to the floor, debate them, vote on them, and ultimately pass legislation. That is the procedure of the Senate which historically had been honored but fell, sadly, into disrepair over the last several years.”
When asked about the delay, McConnell made sure to remind everyone what the end game is—to make sure the bill lands on Obama’s desk.
“It’s unfortunate. Many Senators on both sides had hoped to use tomorrow to work on this bill. So did I,” said McConnell. “But we’ll work through this. Because we’re determined to get bipartisan jobs legislation on the president’s desk as soon as we can.”
Whether or not the President will veto the bill, however, remains to be seen.DONATE
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