You have to hand it to Republicans. Their obstruction in the Senate has been nothing short of diabolical in its reach. They've foiled much of President Obama's agenda—their stated purpose in blocking anything and everything. In doing so, they've forced all three branches of government to falter, proving their basic ideological premise that government doesn't work. Now they're using the fact that the Senate can't accomplish anything against Democrats running for re-election. That's made Democrats turn against Harry Reid.
Led by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a small but vocal group of mostly younger Democratic senators are meeting secretly and privately lobbying Reid to help ease the gridlock. While they blame Republicans for the bottleneck, they are pressing Reid to be more willing to entertain a freewheeling process, including more votes on amendments. […]One wonders where Cory Booker has been for the past six years, and whether he paid any attention at all to the working of the body he was running to be a part of. Booker aside, these Democrats have to figure out whether they really want to take the votes Reid has been protecting them from—a long, long series of Republican poison pills. Sure, they might get some of their own amendments to the floor, but in the meantime there will be endless Obamacare repeal, Keystone pipeline, and Iran votes.
The push for more votes is being fueled by junior senators, many of whom worry they have little to show voters back home.
On the floor a few weeks ago, one of the group’s members, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, buttonholed West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to express frustration that the Senate was casting yet another vote to confirm a presidential nominee—not on legislation. According to people familiar with the exchange, Booker asked: Is that all the Senate does?
For his part, Reid is encouraging the group of freshmen senators to keep meeting and trying to figure out what to do about all this. But they've got one big problem—finding a half dozen or so Republicans who will work with them to break Mitch McConnell's rule of 60 votes for most major legislation. Good luck to them with that.
So far, the group has yet to find a bill that fits that mold, a sign that finding bipartisan agreement for votes sounds easier than it actually it is.Unless Republicans are going to be willing to start to break ranks—and there's been no indication of that so far—the only way around it is more filibuster reform. It's a popular idea with voters in red and purple states, and something these Democrats could use aggressively to answer the gridlock attacks.