Updated at 11:10 a.m. on December 1.
All 42 Senate Republicans have signed a letter refusing to vote for cloture on any bill before the Senate until the federal government is funded beyond this week and the Bush-era income tax cuts are addressed before they expire December 31.
“We write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers,” said the letter, which was sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning.
While Congress is expected to clear a short-term extension of federal funding today or tomorrow, the letter derails chances for relatively quick passage of bills Democrats are considering taking up before addressing the tax cuts. The two most prominent are a defense authorization that includes a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military and the Dream Act, giving some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a path to legal residence.
Reid was weighing action on both those bills before a final deal on the so-called Bush tax cuts. But with 42 votes, Republicans appear poised to successfully filibuster them.
“The true effect of this letter is to prevent the Senate from acting on many important issues that have bipartisan support,” Reid said this morning on the Senate floor. He said the letter codifies a GOP strategy of delaying action “on critical matters, then blaming the Democrats for not addressing the needs of the American people. Very cynical, but very obvious, very transparent.”
Reid said he is also lining up action on a labor-backed bill to guarantee collective bargaining rights to first responders, such as police and firefighters, and a bill to extend health care coverage and compensation to people who worked in the World Trade Center ruins after 9/11 and since became sick. He said he plans to file cloture on the bills and the Dream Act at the same time later this week.
But he acknowledged the Republican letter means those votes will fail. “Passing either will require Republican votes,” Reid said.
The bills could still move after completion of a tax deal, if that occurs, but the move by the GOP complicates that plan.