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Dysfunction, Rancor Abound During Legislative Stalemate

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Republicans are realizing that their plan to oppose what the president wants is backfiring.

"We are going to continue to try and help small businesses. The question is, 'Is the Senate going to join us?' The question is, 'What is the Senate doing?' There is clearly a sense there is a do-nothing Senate, as we continue to send bills over to try and improve the environment for small businesses," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday.

Cantor went on to take a further dig at the Senate, arguing that while Obama has insisted on quick action on his jobs bill by Congress as a whole, House lawmakers, "frankly, are able to do so much quicker than the Democratic-controlled Senate as far as the president's job bills are concerned."

On that point, McConnell today sought to bring up Obama's jobs bill as an amendment to currency legislation the Senate is considering, but he was blocked by Reid in a procedural move.

"I feel like we've passed a lot, just not a lot of them end up getting signed into law," a House GOP leadership aide said, pointing to a series of deregulation bills, energy bills and small-business measures that have been passed out of the House, many with some level of bipartisan support.

"Everything is focused on jobs and job creation from our perspective. It's cutting taxes and it's reducing regulations, and that's fine with me," Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said.

"That's the difference between Republicans and Democrats ... the whole purpose of [Republicans] being here is to cut spending and reduce burdensome regulations," one leadership aide said, arguing that not pursuing bills that would appeal to Democrats is "not a bad thing for Republicans."

So it is not a surprise that neither chamber has produced much that could form the basis of a bipartisan, negotiated deal between the two chambers.

For instance, Reid's handling of legislation this year has resulted in only a handful of bills being produced that could even be taken up by the House. The most recent example of a doomed piece of legislation would be his September disaster-relief bill.

Although that passed on a bipartisan basis in the Senate, it never had a serious chance of being considered in the House. Despite clear signals from Cantor and other GOP leaders that disaster spending must include corresponding offsets, Reid went ahead without including spending reductions, and the bill died.

Likewise, House Republicans have produced few measures that have much of a chance of seeing action in the Senate. For every success exemplified by the recently enacted patent reform bill or the USA PATRIOT Act extension, there have been numerous votes to repeal Obama's health care bill or measures targeting Obama administration regulatory activities none of which Reid will ever bring to the floor.

Democrats insist it is hurting Republicans and that they are beginning to feel the pain.

"Of course it does [hurt]," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said today. He went on to quip that "the fact that we're 2 points ahead of Republicans [in favorability polls] is cold comfort. We just have more relatives."

"I think the Republicans are sensing that confrontation and partisanship is not working and that opposing everything the president puts his name to is going to backfire," Durbin added.

Republicans, however, dismissed that argument.

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