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GOP Cries Sabotage of Brown’s Bipartisanship

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Democrats say Sen. Scott Brown’s bills seem bipartisan but contain elements their Conference finds unacceptable.

Sen. Scott Brown says he has been stymied this year in his effort to build a record of bipartisan legislative successes a problem Republicans blame on Democratic efforts to sink his 2012 re-election bid.

Democrats do not deny they have blocked his legislation but contend the Massachusetts Republican has faced trouble because his bills, while bipartisan in concept, have contained partisan elements that made them unacceptable to the majority Conference.

Republicans dismiss that explanation as semantics, arguing the Democrats' aim is to prevent Brown from having a record to run on in his overwhelmingly liberal state and in a race that presents the majority with perhaps its brightest opportunity to flip a GOP seat.

"It's sad; I think this is one of the reasons people don't like what's happening in Washington," Brown said during a recent interview after an amendment he filed to the defense authorization bill was nearly scuttled by Democrats. "It's just sad. There's plenty of time until the election."

Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.), who managed the defense measure on a bipartisan basis with Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said he saw firsthand how Democrats used parliamentary and procedural tools to prevent Brown from getting approval for his proposals. For example, McCain said Brown's amendment to increase financial benefits for National Guardsmen who get deployed overseas was originally accepted by Democrats as part of standard negotiations governing which amendments would be allowed to receive a vote.

However, the amendment later became subject to an anonymous hold, with Democrats requesting that a proposal by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) be voted on in its place, McCain said. He added that her amendment had previously been rejected by the Republicans as unacceptable. Brown's amendment was salvaged after McCain threatened to derail the entire defense authorization bill, and it was easily adopted.

But McCain suggested that the manager's package of additional amendments died because it included a second Brown proposal this one involving military tuition assistance for which Democrats did not want the Massachusetts Republican to be able to take credit.

McCain said he has "no doubt" political considerations motivated Democrats to stall Brown's amendments.

"I don't know how you could draw any other conclusion. I've never seen anything quite like it," he said.

Brown faces a potentially tough general election matchup against Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, and Democrats are eager to reclaim the seat held by "liberal lion" Sen. Edward Kennedy. Brown won the seat in 2010 in a special election upset that followed Kennedy's August 2009 death.

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