Tax-Extenders Bill Blocked by Senate Republicans Angry About Process

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attend the dedication ceremony for the Anne Frank Memorial Tree in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol April 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Now planted on the west side of the U.S. Capitol building, the memorial tree is from a sapling that was cut from the horse chestnut tree behind the Secret Annex where Frank's family hid during WWII before it collapsed from disease in 2010. The ceremony was moved indoors due to heavy rain. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Journal
Michael Catalin
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Michael Catalin
May 15, 2014, 12:41 p.m.

Re­ject­ing Demo­crat­ic over­tures to work out a plan for amend­ments, Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans blocked sprawl­ing, bi­par­tis­an tax le­gis­la­tion Thursday, height­en­ing the chances that Con­gress won’t work the is­sue out un­til the lame-duck ses­sion after the Novem­ber elec­tions.

Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors voted against mov­ing for­ward des­pite gen­er­al sup­port for the un­der­ly­ing le­gis­la­tion. At is­sue, once again, was wheth­er Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id would al­low sen­at­ors to of­fer amend­ments.

Re­id offered to have Fin­ance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ron Wyden and rank­ing mem­ber Or­rin Hatch work out a plan for amend­ments if the Sen­ate mustered the 60 votes needed to end de­bate on the bill, but nearly all Re­pub­lic­ans re­fused to go along. The clo­ture mo­tion failed, 53-40.

Re­id and Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell traded poin­ted speeches be­fore the vote, with each blam­ing the oth­er for hold­ing up the le­gis­la­tion.

“This is com­pletely out of con­trol,” Mc­Con­nell said, as many Re­pub­lic­ans stood and watched his speech from near the dais. “It’s a gag or­der on the Amer­ic­an people we rep­res­ent.”

Re­id called Mc­Con­nell the “guard­i­an of grid­lock” in a short speech ob­ject­ing to Mc­Con­nell’s re­quest for amend­ments.

The set­back for the bill, which the Fin­ance Com­mit­tee ap­proved on a voice vote last month, likely means the tax ex­tenders won’t be taken up again un­til after the elec­tion. Re­id voted no for pro­ced­ur­al reas­ons so that he could bring the le­gis­la­tion up again.

Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois was the only Re­pub­lic­an to vote with Demo­crats on the mo­tion. Kirk voted for clo­ture be­cause he was a co­spon­sor in the Sen­ate of the Hire More Her­oes Act — the House le­gis­la­tion be­ing used as a le­gis­lat­ive vehicle in this case, his of­fice said in a state­ment.

Hatch soun­ded pess­im­ist­ic when asked be­fore the vote if a de­feat would give Re­id any in­cent­ive to bring the bill to the floor again. “Well, maybe he won’t bring it up be­fore the elec­tion,” Hatch said. “Then we’ll have to do it after the elec­tion.”

Mean­while, the House is pur­su­ing a piece-by-piece ap­proach, hav­ing passed one tax ex­tender be­fore this week’s re­cess.

The drama on Thursday af­ter­noon fol­lowed a sim­il­ar im­passe this week on an en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency bill. The Sen­ate failed to ad­vance that meas­ure be­cause Re­pub­lic­ans were angry about not be­ing able to of­fer amend­ments.

Demo­crats seem just as frus­trated as Re­pub­lic­ans about the grid­lock. “Once again Re­pub­lic­ans can’t take yes for an an­swer,” Re­id said.

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