It was a close one on energy legislation last week, but Senate Democrats finally got a PR-friendly bill passed that they can tout to constituents during the July Fourth break. Unfortunately for them, that may be just about all they get to crow about next week.
Even if the Senate passes an immigration bill this week — which remains uncertain — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) very public proclamations that it is “the president’s bill” and “not a Democratic bill” may make it tough for Democrats to claim credit for the mammoth rewrite.
And while House and Senate negotiators are preparing to unveil conference reports this week on two top Democratic legislative priorities — a bill implementing terrorism-prevention measures suggested by the 9/11 commission and a measure to overhaul lobbying and ethics rules — Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), likely will object to the quick consideration necessary for either to be sent to the president before the recess.
“If Sen. McConnell and the Republican leadership in the Senate chose obstruction on this legislation, it serves no one’s interests but the special interests,” said a Democratic House aide.
Democratic aides familiar with the negotiating efforts said a “bigger push” was behind passage of the 9/11 bill rather than the lobbying bill, primarily because Democrats want to burnish their national security image during the recess.
Though Reid stated his desire to return to the debate over how and when to end the Iraq War, it doesn’t appear he will be able to do much more than file a procedural motion to begin debate on the defense authorization bill before recessing for July Fourth.
Still, it appears that after six months in charge, Democrats are still struggling to come up with an impressive list of accomplishments to hype back home — that is, beyond the 16 building-naming bills and other cats-and-dogs type legislation that makes up the bulk of the 39 measures that have been passed into law.
Granted, House Democrats have sent a whopping 239 public bills over to the Senate, but Republicans on that side of the Capitol have played their part to the hilt, objecting to just about every major piece of legislation that Reid has tried to bring up.
“I think we are legitimately moving toward having an impressive list, but it’s just going to take time,” said one knowledgeable Senate Democratic aide. The aide added that GOP objections have slowed down the process, but, “We’ve put ourselves in a position to really deliver in the next six or so weeks.”
Still, no one disagrees it was a much-needed win for Reid last week when he squeezed out passage of the energy bill, which contains the first new automobile fuel economy standards in 25 years.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.