So what about all those amendments that Republicans have been offering? Why would Reid be such a big meanie as to use procedural rules to keep them from coming to the floor? If you've been paying close attention, you know why: Republicans insist on offering dozens of poison pills, purely political amendments that undercut actual policy and that usually have nothing to do with the underlying legislation. They've done this on just about every bill brought to the floor in this Congress. So Reid has done what's necessary to actually get some work done in his chamber: limit amendments.
The 113th Congress has been dominated by one Republican obsession: Obamacare. That includes this unemployment benefits bill—Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants an amendment that would delay the individual mandate for a year to supposedly pay for the unemployment extension. How that would work isn't clear, since the mandate is actually a revenue-generator, but that's the point here. It's not about policy, it's about political statements.
According to Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans tried to repeal all or part of Obamacare on nearly every bill the Senate considered this Congress. In an email, they provide this list:
- SA 760, an Ayotte (R-NH) amendment to the Internet sales tax bill that would exempt employers that say they have to pay higher insurance premiums under Obamacare;
- SA 927, a Heller (R-NV) amendment to the farm bill to prohibit funding for the IRS for Obamacare implementation;
- SA 1248 from Hatch (R-UT) and Rubio (R-FL) in the immigration bill to make sure that no non-citizen got a tax credit for health insurance;
For more bills, please see below the fold.
- Vitter's (R-LA) SA 1748, to take the employer health insurance subsidy away from congressional staff, in the transportation bill;
- SA 1867, an amendment from Coburn (R-OK) to the energy bill that would prevent the subsidies from being available;
- SA 1979 from McConnell and Coats (R-IN) in the continuing resolution bill, the one to keep the government running, to delay the individual mandate;
- Vitter, again, with SA 2184 to the defense authorization; and
- SA 2593, Paul's (R-KY) one-year delay of all of Obamacare, also in the continuing resolution.
Senator Vitter gets some kind of dubious record for having filed his Obamacare amendment to six different bills, all unrelated to Obamacare. When Democrats offered him the chance to have a vote on his amendment as a stand-alone bill, he refused.
It's not just Obamacare, though, that Republicans have been obsessing over in the amendments process. It's scandal-mongering, too.
Here's a few of those "scandal" amendments Republicans insisted get a vote.
- Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz and Senator Cornyn filed amendments on alleged political targeting at the IRS as amendments to the Farm bill and a bipartisan infrastructure bill [SA 892, SA 1085, SA 995, SA 1797];
- Senator Ayotte has tried to strip the child tax credit for the children of undocumented immigrants with her amendment to the budget compromise and the unemployment extension. [SA 2577, SA 2603];
- Sen. Johnson and Sen. Cornyn filed amendments to ban a state and local bailout when the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy even though no such thing was ever seriously contemplated. [SA 1786, SA 1797];
- Sen. Vitter filed an amendment on the widely debunked myth of “Obamaphones,” as an amendment to the Farm Bill. [SA 1127]
There were plenty of hobby-horse amendments, too, like the two amendments Sen. Inhofe filed amendments on climate change on the bipartisan budget compromise [SA 1996, SA 1997] and the two amendments to the farm bill filed by Sens. Lee and Paul to repeal the estate tax [SA 1021, SA 1064].
That's a smattering of the dozens and dozens of Republican amendments offered on every single piece of legislation that gets to the Senate floor, amendments intended to do nothing but make political points, shore up the tea party credentials of GOP senators, and ultimately bog the Senate down to the point that it can't accomplish anything, particularly not any of President Obama's goals. As Greg Sargent reminds us, that's been the explicit strategy of the Republicans, articulated by Mitch McConnell, since 2010.
This isn't about making policy. It's not about integrity of the Senate as an institution. It's about politics and about making government fail. Nothing else.