Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has spent the first three months of this Congress clearing the decks of a handful of relatively noncontroversial measures.
The legislative pace in the Senate has slowed to a crawl, and it looks like it’s about to get even slower.
With the Republican-controlled House sending Senate Democrats one dead-on-arrival bill after another, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has spent the first three months of this Congress clearing the decks of a handful of relatively noncontroversial measures.
But Senate Democrats acknowledge that they could reach the end of the line this week with passage of a small-business bill that has already eaten up two weeks of floor time. And besides a continuing resolution to fund the government past Friday, Democratic aides say it is unclear what will be next on tap.
Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat who was elected to the Senate in 2008, said the legislative pace this year was “diametrically opposed” to the 111th Congress, and he criticized House Republicans for “making the mistake that [Democrats] were accused of making last Congress, which is not focusing single-mindedly on the economy and jobs.”
House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling defended the House GOP’s approach, arguing that it has done a lot to change how business gets done in Washington, D.C.
“Having a culture every week where we actually get rid of programs, to pass a bill for the first time that reduces spending the most since World War II, again, it depends on what your goals are,” the Texas Republican said. “I like what we’re doing; I didn’t like what they were doing.”
A Senate Democratic aide referred to the small-business bill as “the last of those deck-clearing bills” and predicted that Democratic leaders would turn to as-yet-unspecified nominations or “housekeeping” bills to fill floor time the week of April 11 prior to Congress’ two-week spring recess, slated to begin April 15.
Since Republicans took control of the House in January, the two chambers have been operating mostly independently of each other from a legislative standpoint. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has teed up a series of bills on wedge issues such as repealing the Obama administration’s health care law and spending cuts that have no chance of being taken up by the Senate or signed into law by the president.
Reid, meanwhile, has primarily dedicated floor time to passing a handful of bills that he has branded as job-creating measures: a two-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, an overhaul of the nation’s patent laws and the small-business bill.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.