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Senate Democratic leaders hope to build on the momentum of passage of a Food and Drug Administration user fee bill and clear a raft of legislation in the four weeks after the Memorial Day recess.
“Contrary to popular belief, the Senate can get things done in an election year and we expect that to continue in June,” a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
A Senate Republican aide said bills are more likely to pass when Democrats allow amendments to be offered to legislation. That will help determine how productive the four weeks after recess will be.
Along with passage of the FDA measure, which cleared the Senate with an overwhelming 96-1 vote, the chamber has also passed legislation reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and a bill renewing the Violence Against Women Act.
The Senate will vote on a pay equity bill just after returning from the recess and then is expected to take up the farm bill, which Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said “is a bipartisan bill that reforms U.S. food and farm policy to save taxpayers $23 billion while strengthening and streamlining programs to continue allowing the agricultural economy to grow.”
Republicans are skeptical of the pay equity bill, which they believe is a Democratic effort to curry favor with women ahead of the November elections.
“You know how that is going to end up,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, adding that the move was a “show vote.”
Democrats control 53 votes in the Senate and would need seven Republicans to vote with Democrats to overcome a filibuster. McCain doesn’t believe the Democrats will get the GOP votes they will need on the pay equity proposal.
McCain lamented that election-year interference with legislating keeps Democrats and Republicans from addressing serious issues that need to be tackled.
“The tragedy of that is that what we should be doing is sitting down and working things out,” he said. “That is why [Congress’] approval is 11 percent.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill is important because “it will create strong incentives for employers to obey laws already in place.”
Reid said Republican support for the bill would allow that party “to send a clear message that America appreciates the contributions that women make every day.”
Regarding the farm bill, McCain said he agrees that it is an “important” piece of legislation that the Senate should consider.