Senate GOP Majority Killed Most Democratic Bills in New Year
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When Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) effectively squashed the Republican attempt to ruin the bipartisan immigration reform bill forwarded by the Judiciary Committee last week, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) cried like a newborn baby.
"The Democratic leadership, by putting a stranglehold on the amendment and debate process, are causing us to postpone a very important issue," sniffled Frist. "The debate has been reasonably civil and reasonably dignified, but there's been one huge problem, and that problem was created by the Democratic leadership.”
Frist, who was upset because Reid objected to the 20 or so GOP amendments that would have totally neutered the compromise, was joined in the crying jag by his master, George W. Bush, who used his weekend radio address to chastise the gutsy Reid.
“This compromise is being blocked by the Senate Democratic leader who has refused to allow Senators to move forward and vote on amendments to this bill,” said Bush. “I call on the Senate Minority Leader to end his blocking tactics and allow the Senate to do its work and pass a fair, effective immigration reform bill.”
This is the same kind of hypocrisy we saw last year when Reid temporarily shut down
the Senate in November -- to draw attention to GOP stalling on a true investigation into rigged Iraq-war intelligence -- and Frist really threw a tantrum, saying “"Never have I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.”
Apparently, it’s inappropriate for Democrats to try to retain some legislative control but when the Republican leadership blocks almost every bill proposed by the minority party, it’s all good.
An analysis of all Senate roll call votes in the first three months of 2006 –the second session of the 109th Congress – shows that, true to the form they established last year, the GOP killed almost every piece of legislation proposed by Senate Democrats. Of 83 roll call votes done through the end of March, 35 were authored and sponsored by Democrats. Of those, 31, or an astounding 89 percent were killed by the Republicans, with the vast majority of those on strict, party-line votes.
Here are some examples of the bills nuked by the GOP majority so far this year:
- S.Amdt. 2716, proposed by Senator Clinton (D-NY), which would have established a Congressional commission to examine the dismal Federal, State, and local response to Hurricane Katrina. It was defeated 44-53, with not one Republican voting in favor of forming the investigative commission.
- Senator Akaka (D-HI) sponsored S.Amdt. 3007, which was intended to increase Veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in 2007. But it was to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes, which doomed it to a 46-54 defeat, with only Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) crossing the aisle to vote for the measure.
- S.Amdt. 3056, authored by Senator Stabenow (D-MI), was to provide $5 billion for interoperable communications equipment for emergency first responders so that they could effectively communicate with one another during natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other public safety situations. It went down by a 43-55 vote because, like Akaka’s bill for Veterans, it would have been funded via closing corporate tax loopholes.
As if initiatives like that weren’t awful enough for Senate Republicans, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) had the temerity to suggest that seniors hopelessly confused by the Bush administration’s Byzantine prescription drug program, be given a deadline extension to wade through the red tape and pick a plan. S.Amdt. 3009 would have extended the application deadline because of all the problems and, as Nelson argued on the Senate floor, help senior citizens who are “…confused, bewildered and, in some cases, frightened” by the program.
“The stakes are high because simply we need to provide our seniors with the time and the resources they need to make an informed decision,” said Nelson. “In some cases, this is a matter of life or death, especially for those who are frail.”
It didn’t much matter to his Republican colleagues, who saw to it that the bill went down 49-49, with 50 votes needed for passage.
And, in examining the votes for all legislation defeated, it’s startling to see exactly how partisan the Republican blocking of Democratic measures really is. When all Democratic-sponsored bills killed on the Senate floor are analyzed, we find that the 31 roll call votes lost by an average margin of 45-53.
With the U.S. Senate currently sitting at 44 Democrats, 55 Republicans and one Independent (Jeffords, of Vermont, who almost always votes with the Democrats), you can see that the votes are consistently straight down party lines.
This is no different than what we saw in the first half of the 109th Congress, in 2005, when over 75 percent of legislation sponsored by Senate Democrats was killed by the GOP majority. And, so far, 2006 looks to be even worse. And this is only considering legislation that actually made it to the floor for a vote as there’s simply no telling how many bills sponsored by Democrats were killed in Republican-controlled committees or otherwise never saw the light of day.
As Harry Reid said just last week on the Senate floor when the GOP whined about him blocking amendments to the compromise immigration reform bill: “The fact that we are not allowing votes on amendments should fall on deaf ears because we are experts at trying to offer amendments and not having votes on them.”
And so far this year, as you can tell every fake-bipartisan Republican you know, it’s to the tune of almost 90 percent.
You can reach Bob Geiger at firstname.lastname@example.org