Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (left) and ranking member Mike Enzi (right) have run into conflict with Sen. Rand Paul over the timing for considering changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.
Harkin said Paul could have spoken to him or Enzi if he wanted to have input on the bill at any point this year — it wasn't a secret they were working on it — and he never spoke to Harkin about it.
Harkin also said the bill wasn't filed 48 hours ago, but was available online for a whole week. Only the manager's amendment was filed on Monday.
Harkin said Paul has filed 74 of the 144 amendments filed on the bill. "How can you file 74 amendments if you haven't read the bill?" Harkin asked.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), a former schools superintendent, urged Paul to reconsider.
"I think if you ask yourself why is it that we have a 12 percent approval rating that's going down, it's because of this kind of thing," he said.
Bennet, who also alluded to his efforts to streamline Senate rules earlier this year, later said there have already been years of delay.
"Congress was supposed to reauthorize this bill in 2007. It's four years later because of our own fecklessness, our own inability to get anything done. ... Every single year, parents, teachers and principals keep having to put up with what is the crudest accountability system I could imagine."
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who is vying to be the party's Whip in the next Congress, came to Paul's defense on the Senate floor.
Burr dismissed Harkin's statement that Senators would have another shot at amending the bill on the floor, saying that didn't give him much comfort given the Democrats' propensity for blocking all amendments.
He also took issue with the underlying bill, saying that it is still overly prescriptive of what local school boards must do to receive federal money.
"This bill spends 20 pages defining for every local school system what reading is," he said. "This is insane."
Burr suggested that Harkin hold a hearing after next week's recess before returning to a markup.
Burr also said he was told that Harkin and Enzi had reached a deal not to let substantive amendments pass.
"There were going to be no exceptions," he complained.
Burr said in an interview that a deal like that "should trouble not just me, but Republicans and Democrats and the American people."
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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