Reid Forced to Scramble on Small-Business Bill

Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:22am

Updated: 12:36 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) failed to break a weeks-long GOP filibuster of small-business jobs legislation and was forced to scramble to figure out his next move after Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) bitterly attacked his handling of the bill Thursday.

Senators defeated, 58-42, a procedural motion to end debate on the Democrats’ small-business bill. Reid had initially intended to move to his energy legislation later Thursday, but he appears to be reassessing those plans.

But Snowe’s attack on the Senate floor — in which she accused Reid of performing “political theater. It’s not about legislating anymore” — clearly caught Reid and other Democrats off guard and forced the Democratic leader to make a last-ditch effort to salvage the bill.

Reid had offered to pull a key agriculture assistance provision from the bill to try to woo Republicans, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, forcing the failed cloture vote to occur.

However, Reid and McConnell were expected to resume talks on the small-business bill, throwing the future of the energy bill into doubt.

On Wednesday evening, Reid tried to break the impasse on the small-business bill with Republicans by agreeing to their previous demands to consider three of their amendments, as well as three Democratic alternatives to those proposals. Reid also wanted to consider a fourth Democratic education amendment and offered to allow Republicans to offer their own competing proposal.

Pointing to talks with McConnell last week in which the GOP leader said Republicans would drop their filibuster if their amendments were considered, Reid said, “If they mean what they said last week, the Republicans should accept this request because we’re, in effect, saying ‘yes.'”

McConnell, however, rejected that offer, objecting to the contents of some of the Democratic alternatives and arguing that the majority stalled for weeks before responding to his amendment proposal.

As a result, McConnell countered with an offer of his own to consider seven GOP amendments — including a border security proposal, an estate tax proposal and a nuclear loan guarantee program — arguing that Reid has been dragging out consideration of the bill.

“It took until about an hour ago, an hour ago before they produced their amendments. So to be clear, the Majority Leader moved to proceed to this bill on June 24 … [and] the fact is that we have not had any opportunity to offer amendments,” he said.

Reid countered, blasting Republicans. “I’m terribly disappointed, Mr. President. We have tried our utmost to be fair and reasonable. But it’s obvious that there is no effort here to solve the problem with small business across this country,” he said.