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Senate Republicans launched political attacks Tuesday on a broad range of issues, assailing Democrats and the Obama administration for their handling of the economy, the Gulf oil spill cleanup, immigration, energy and health care.
Republicans said they did not specifically plan Tuesday as a day to kick off a broad offensive. Rather, aides and lawmakers said, they are taking advantage of opportunities provided by Democrats, ranging from lingering unhappiness with their health care bill to the majoritys inability to pass a popular package of tax breaks and unemployment insurance extenders.
There are a lot of things to talk about, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) said, chalking up the controversies to problems within the administration and the ranks of House and Senate Democrats.
There is some disarray, thats for certain, said Kyl, who argued that the GOPs multifront attack on Democrats this week was not planned in advance. Theres no plan.
But clearly Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have some problems in their conference that have provided Republicans with opportunities, Kyl said.
The administration has provided us with so many moving targets, its hard to focus on just one, quipped Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who is tasked with developing message for the Senate GOP.
While for most of the last 18 months both parties have been preoccupied with a series of big-ticket items such as the stimulus bill and comprehensive health care reform, the lack of a headline-dominating issue has now created a vacuum in the GOPs messaging efforts.
While on an average Tuesday morning in November Republicans would have used their floor speeches to attack the latest draft of health care reform, this week they took turns banging on Democrats over a variety of issues.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) kicked off the day for Republicans, focusing on debt and economic issues, while Alexander attacked Democrats for attempting to use the oil spill to push comprehensive energy reform. Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.) then held a colloquy on the floor attacking Democrats health care reform bill before Kyl joined McCain to talk illegal immigration.
Sen. George LeMieux (Fla.) then used floor time to harshly criticize the administrations response to the BP oil spill, and Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) criticized Democrats stalled extenders package and the rising national debt.
Similarly, McConnell and his leadership team used their weekly stakeout with reporters on Tuesday to hammer Democrats on the economy, Gulf Coast cleanup, the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan, the controversy surrounding comments by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and other issues.