Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already allowed more votes on amendments to the Keystone XL pipeline bill than former leader Harry Reid allowed in all of 2014 — but Democrats complained when McConnell tried to wrap up the process late Thursday.
“McConnell has just slammed the door on ‘open’ process — killing six D amendments w/o debate,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley tweeted.
Reid’s spokesman Adam Jentleson accused McConnell of shutting down debate so Republican senators could attend a retreat sponsored by Charles and David Koch on Friday.
Sen. Dick Durbin, who had praised McConnell earlier that same day for leading an open debate, said the move was not “in the best interest” of the Senate. Under Harry Reid’s leadership in 2014, Durbin won votes on just two amendments, compared to four in just a few weeks of McConnell’s Senate.
After holding votes on 10 amendments to the bill Thursday — five from Democrats and five from Republicans – McConnell wanted to hold a series of votes on additional amendments Thursday night. But Democrats did not want to vote on their amendments, saying they wanted more time to consider them before voting.
So McConnell shut down votes on five of the six remaining Democratic amendments. “And the record will reflect the spirited debate on those amendments, when you wouldn’t even give the authors 60 seconds to describe what was in the amendment,” Durbin said angrily when McConnell didn’t meet all of his demands. (RELATED: House Border Security Bill Clears Dem Temper Tantrum)
McConnell then offered to hold quick votes on the rest of the amendments Friday. Democrats objected to the votes again on the same grounds, and then complained when McConnell moved the remaining votes to Monday.
Durbin did not respond to a request for comment.
The Senate left for the weekend shortly after midnight Thursday.
“They were sort of up in arms that they were allowed to have votes on their amendments,” Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It was just a bizarre thing to watch.”
As of Thursday afternoon, McConnell had allowed votes on 15 amendments, surpassing the total amount of Senate votes on amendments in 2014. Reid was not impressed.
“The success of a Congress is not determined on how many amendments people vote on,” he said in a briefing Thursday, before turning the question into an opportunity to talk about the success of the middle class.
His spokesperson said the votes are nothing to be proud of. “McConnell has reached this number by forcing senators to vote on amendments they haven’t been given time to read and research, and by shutting down debate on the Senate floor,” Jentleson said.
As majority leader, Reid was notorious for refusing to allow votes on amendments from either party, in part to protect his members from having to cast politically difficult votes. The downside was that some members had a difficult time contrasting themselves with their Republican opponents in the midterm elections. (RELATED: Inside Harry Reid’s Senate ‘Plantation’)
“I am very excited about the process, the open amendment process,” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said last week, adding that it gives Democrats a valuable opportunity to accomplish their priorities.
Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse seized on the opportunity Wednesday by trying to get Republicans to cast a vote on global warming. But Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe foiled the plot to embarrass Republicans by co-sponsoring the amendment, which simply stated that “climate change is real and not a hoax.”
Inhofe explained later he agrees it’s real, but that humans are arrogant to think they can control it.
Holler said Republicans shouldn’t be afraid of votes. “To the extent that people are afraid to cast votes, they shouldn’t have been elected a member of congress,” he said. “We think conservatives, when they explain themselves, can win.”
Inhofe hopes Democrats use the open process in a constructive manner. “The Democrats have been adjusting to the open amendments process, given their previous leadership wouldn’t allow for Senators to offer amendments.”