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Partisanship Threatens Minibus

Senate ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ Now Just a Memory

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid complained that Republicans haven't held up their end of the bargain to help keep the Senate running smoothly with a minimum of procedural roadblocks.

The gentlemen's agreement reached earlier this year between Republican and Democratic Senate leaders "has broken down big-time," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday as tensions mounted over numerous GOP amendments being proposed to a package of spending bills.

The Nevada Democrat complained on the Senate floor that Republicans haven't held up their end of the bargain to help keep the Senate running smoothly with a minimum of procedural roadblocks.

"That has prevented us from doing the routine work we do around here," Reid said, as he expressed hope that the Senate would be able to pass the minibus package of three appropriations bills. The spending bills are the chamber's first attempt to approve money for federal agencies before Nov. 18, when current funding will run out.

The potential for Congressional dysfunction to lead to yet another government shutdown fight had Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) proposing Tuesday to pass a one-year continuing resolution to take a shutdown off the table.

"In order to do our basic job, do we need to subject the rest of government and the country to a series of threatened shutdowns?" he asked on the Senate floor.

While Reid still holds out hope for a bipartisan deal on fiscal 2012 spending, he noted that so far "this Congress, [Republicans] have turned even routine matters into crises," adding, "they have filibustered everything by amendment."

After a year in which Congress took the country to the precipice of financial crisis three times, Reid said it's a rare day that Republicans allow him to simply bring a bill up for debate without having to go through the process of beating back a filibuster.

Under the gentlemen's agreement, Republicans were supposed to allow bills to come to the floor without procedural barriers, and Reid was supposed to allow Republican amendments instead of using a maneuver known as "filling the amendment tree" to block minority proposals. But it hasn't worked out that way.

Reid blamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) stated top goal of defeating President Barack Obama next year.

"As a result of that, we have not been able to do the government's business because everything that they can do to slow down government is something they believe will help them a year from now," Reid said.

More than 80 amendments, mostly Republican, have been offered to the minibus, which is made up of the Commerce, Justice and science; Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration; and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took Reid to task in an interview with Roll Call.

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