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GOP Promises New, Improved Senate

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Republicans say if they win control of the Senate this fall, Mitch McConnell would open up the chamber’s amendment process in his position as Majority Leader.

It may be wishful thinking, but Republican Senators predict a President Mitt Romney and a Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would usher in a new era of productivity for their famously sclerotic chamber.

It’s no secret Senators in both parties are frustrated with this Congress’ epic dysfunction. While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) casts blame on the GOP and Grover Norquist and eyes reforms to the filibuster rule, Republicans instead suggest that a new era of openness, and more engaged leadership from the White House, could unclog the chamber if they prevail in November.

McConnell ripped the way Reid has run the Senate in an interview Monday on Sean Hannity’s radio show. “He’s already kind of turned the Senate Majority Leader’s office into, you know, an office for a dictator,” the Kentucky Republican said.

Republicans point to Romney’s ability to work with Democrats when he was governor of Massachusetts and say McConnell has told them that he will open up the amendment process and reinvigorate committees so all Senators have their say — a promise echoed by Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) before the 2010 elections regarding how the House would function under GOP rule. Republicans have also committed to passing a budget resolution, which would enable them to use reconciliation rules to bypass filibusters on budget-related matters.

“We’ve already had a lot of discussions as a Conference,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) said in regard to life in the majority. She said Republicans would not repeat Reid’s penchant for shutting down the amendment process or avoiding passing a budget resolution.

“I’ve heard from Leader McConnell that if he is blessed to be the Majority Leader of the Senate, that he intends to let the Senate operate in the way it was intended to operate. He has been very clear with our Conference about that,” she said.

That means having a willingness to take repeated tough votes on Democratic amendments.

“This problem of moving a bill wouldn’t be a problem if you had an appropriations process and a budget process and just allowed amendments,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Republican Conference vice chairman. “Part of the price of being in the Senate is supposed to be that you take votes that you’d prefer not to take. ... The problem is not the rules of the Senate. The problem is the Senate is not being allowed to be the Senate.”

Ayotte said McConnell would have a revolt on his hands if he acted the way Reid has.

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