What makes anybody think that with gas at $4.20 a gallon that the American people want us to do less? the staffer asked.
Democrats responded that Republicans have been saying for weeks that they want a vote on their pro-drilling bill but now appear to be upping the ante.
If this is nothing more than a political ploy to move the goal posts on energy, then this is going to be a pretty short debate, one Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
The aide added that Republicans would be making a mistake if they filibustered the bill over the number of amendments, noting Republicans would be talking about process, while were talking about solutions to our energy crisis.
Still, McConnell appeared to indicate that this debate was less likely to end in the stalemate that has characterized so many legislative disputes in the Senate.
Whats different about this debate ... its clearly and unambiguously the most important issue in the country, he said.
The Senate Democratic leadership aide appeared to agree.
We want this to be a constructive debate. We want to work with these guys, the aide said.
But should the debate this week end in another standoff, Republicans have strongly hinted that theyre prepared to block any other legislation from coming to the floor. Republicans said they would be willing to take the gamble that voters would forgive them for blocking even the Defense Department authorization bill the next measure on Reids to-do list for next week.
The intensity of this issue is without equal, the senior Senate Republican staffer said. Theres nothing that comes close in the consumers mind.
Ultimately, Reid and McConnell will have to take this debate to the group of voters that matter most to them their rank and file. Both caucuses will get a chance to weigh in on their leaders plans during their weekly policy lunches. It will likely be those nervous voices that determine whether Reid and McConnell make a deal or go empty-handed to the voters.