Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (left) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have a gentlemens agreement to limit filibusters, but some in the GOP are losing patience.
The burst of comity that followed a deal on Senate rules changes at the beginning of this Congress is under stress, with Republicans growing frustrated at the lack of action on items such as spending cuts and trade agreements.
A group of conservative Senators led by David Vitter (R-La.) vowed last week to object to any bills not dealing with federal spending, forcing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to file cloture simply to bring bills to the Senate floor.
Sen. Jim DeMint, a leader of the group, said he and his colleagues “don’t want to mess up the comity of the Senate” but that they are frustrated that Reid called up bills such as Federal Aviation Administration authorization, patent reform and small-business reauthorization rather than tackling spending more directly.
“Our concern is that the big problem facing us as a nation is the spending and the debt, and we’ve been back three months now and we’re not addressing it,” the South Carolina Republican said. “As a matter of fact, we seem to be looking for other things to do.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), another member of the group and the ranking member of the Budget Committee, said that if Democratic leaders don’t move soon, the pressure to block unrelated bills could build within the GOP. “Democratic leaders [have] got to realize that this issue’s got to be confronted sooner rather than later,” he said.
Reid has been critical of Republican efforts, saying he’s working on legislation aimed at stimulating job growth at a critical time.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has yet to join the group in their approach, supporting Reid on invoking cloture to bring a small-business bill to the floor Monday. That appeared to satisfy Reid that McConnell is holding up his end of a gentlemen’s agreement the two struck to limit filibusters and allow amendments on the Senate floor at the start of the 112th Congress.
DeMint said McConnell was aware of the effort but that “there were different philosophies” within the Republican Conference about the hard-line approach.
“Our numbers are not to the point where we’re actually stopping things,” he said. “What is going on is a movement out across the country and in the Senate that this is the last short-term CR, and we don’t want to be in the position of stopping other business, but the fact is we have to deal with the real business first instead of using all these distractions and putting it off.”
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.