Updated 11:40 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called out Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for insisting on a simple majority threshold for his amendment to block new carbon emissions regulations — while refusing to allow simple majority votes on Democratic jobs proposals.
“Unfortunately the Republican leader stalled the Senate’s progress on these appropriations bills with his recent conversion to the idea of insisting on simple majority votes,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday.
Senior Senate Republican aides said this was just another instance of Reid seeking to protect his Democrats from voting on politically difficult amendments. “Sen. Reid would rather kill the appropriations process than vote on this amendment,” one GOP aide said.
Their comments came as the Senate had been considering a spending package made up of the Agriculture, Transportation-HUD and Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bills.
After voting overwhelmingly to begin consideration of the package 95 to 3 last week, talks between Reid and McConnell sputtered . Eventually, Reid moved Thursday to proceed to a bipartisan sportsmen’s bill, signaling the possible death of the appropriations package.
One major issue was a McConnell amendment that he had been planning to offer that would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to implement new regulations on carbon emissions from existing power plants — primarily affecting coal.
Reid had sought to limit the scope of amendments by insisting that only germane amendments could be offered, but McConnell had assurances that his amendment would be ruled germane if challenged.
That meant that McConnell would get a 51-vote threshold on his proposal since, under Senate rules, once cloture is invoked on the package, pending germane amendments would automatically get votes at a 51-vote threshold.
So, in negotiations, McConnell dismissed any effort that would not allow a 51-vote threshold for his amendment. Democrats offered to vote on the measure separately, but at a 60-vote threshold. But McConnell rejected that idea — hence an impasse and Reid’s decision to move on to other business, according Democratic aides. A GOP aide disputed that any such offer was made.
Reid said that it was ironic that the Republican leader was insisting on a simple majority vote since McConnell had pushed so many times before on 60-vote threshold for most Senate business in recent years.
“Over the past five years virtually everything we’ve done here in the Senate has been subject to a 60-vote threshold,” Reid said. “Why? Because the Republican leader has insisted on it.”
Reid dubbed the move “the McConnell Rule, everything is 60-votes.”
Senator Reid offered McConnell a compromise. If McConnell insisted on a majority threshold for his carbon rule amendment, Reid would agree if, in turn, McConnell would consent to simple majority votes on middle-class priorities with broad support – such as pay equity, a minimum wage hike and allowing student loan to be refinanced.
A GOP aide said that the Senate routinely sets up a 60-vote threshold on contentious amendments. If Reid’s proposals were germane they too would be subject to a 51-threshold vote, like McConnell’s amendment, the aide said.
The logjam could free up floor time for other bills, including a bipartisan rewrite of the Workforce Investment Act and a bill to provide sportsmen more access to federal lands and support conservation efforts. The Senate could also take up a terrorism risk insurance bill or a bill making it more difficult for Congress to make changes to benefits under Medicare from Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.