House Republicans are fond of portraying the Senate as a graveyard for dozens of bipartisan bills, accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of purposefully blockading bills that should, in theory, be easy to move.
But for House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, a significant amount of blame for the legislative dead zone that is the Senate lies with that chamber’s Republican minority.
While Reid and President Barack Obama are indeed partially to blame, the California Republican bluntly said in a recent interview with Roll Call that the internal political goals of the Senate GOP have contributed to the obstruction of the House’s agenda.
Senate Republicans, as the “loyal opposition” in a closely divided chamber, have their own political motivations that can differ from those of Republicans in the House, who have to demonstrate an ability to effectively govern, McCarthy said.
“They’re on the cusp of winning the majority. They want nothing to happen, right? We need to be a majority; we need to get product finished,” he said.
“The other thing that people don’t think about — what we need to achieve lots of times is the opposite of what Republicans in the Senate need to achieve,” he said.
The GOP has created a cottage industry out of slamming Reid and Obama for not being interested in working with House Republicans since taking control of the House in 2010. And with Obama attempting to use a “do-nothing Congress” as a foil for his re-election campaign, Republicans have bitterly cried foul in the past several months over what they see as Reid and Obama implementing a campaign strategy in the Senate.
Perhaps ironically, the Senate is considering a House-passed GOP capital formation bill this week that is a priority for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and has been endorsed by Obama.
McCarthy made it clear that he sees Senate Republicans’ maneuvers as simply exacerbating an already difficult situation, adding to a scenario in which Republicans “don’t have a president in the White House who you can call down or put you on Air Force One or come into your district. We don’t have earmarks and what we’re achieving is fighting against everything else ... at times you have more wind in the face, so the strategy has to be stronger to overcome that.”
A Senate GOP leadership aide sidestepped McCarthy’s complaints and said Reid is ultimately to blame for the lack of progress on much of the House GOP’s legislative work product.
“Senate Republicans share House Republican frustrations with a Democrat agenda that increases taxes and spending but not jobs. Republicans on both sides of the Capitol are in complete agreement when it comes to passing legislation that helps create jobs and improve the economy, and I would point to likely Senate passage later this week of the House-passed JOBS Act,” the Senate aide said, referring to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act.
McCarthy’s comments are particularly noteworthy: Leaders in both chambers go to great pains to avoid criticizing their counterparts, even indirectly, and Republicans in particular have made a great show of their unity in message over the last year.
Still, McCarthy is not alone in his unhappiness.
For instance, when asked if complaints about the Senate GOP’s tactics resulting in House-passed bills being stalled are widespread, one rank-and-file Member said bluntly, “Hell yes, they are.”
Republican lawmakers privately agreed with McCarthy, saying that while Reid has shown little interest in passing House bills, Republicans in the chamber have also shown little interest of their own, opting instead to demand votes on poison pill amendments or fight protracted procedural wars with Reid rather than move legislation.
So far this Congress, House Republicans have plenty to complain about. The House has passed about 30 bills with some measure of bipartisan support that have essentially died at the Senate chamber’s door. And while some of those bills are not bipartisan in any real sense — drawing only a few Democratic votes or co-sponsors — others have passed the House with significant backing from both parties. For instance, 25 of those bills have had at least 10 Democratic votes, while 24 have 15 or more.
And House Republicans haven’t been shy about slamming the Senate over the lack of action on their bills. Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) has made the stockpile of House bills awaiting action in the Senate a repeated part of his weekly news conferences, as have other GOP leaders. For instance, Cantor on Tuesday said the blame for a lack of action lies squarely with Reid. “I think it’s Harry Reid who controls the other body. ... I really point right to him,” Cantor said.
“The Senate does two things and only two things well: nothing and overreact,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) quipped.
Seeking to clarify his previous comments, McCarthy on Tuesday also blamed Reid.
“Leader Reid has consistently blocked bipartisan efforts by the House on job creation, while attempting to advance an out-of-touch agenda that puts politics before the American people. In the face of Leader Reid’s obstructionism, [Senate Minority  Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.] and his Republican colleagues in the Senate have fought to bring legislation to the floor that would grow our economy and create jobs,” McCarthy said.
However, McCarthy did acknowledge that, “The Senate and the House are different bodies, and differences in process often appear. However, House and Senate Republicans all share the same goal: to get  Americans back to work.”