Last week, the Senate descended into partisan bickering when Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refused to allow votes on any Republican amendment to the bill extending emergency unemployment benefits.
Two articles – in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal – each pointed out that this has become an increasingly common tactic for Reid. Over the past six months, Reid has allowed votes on just four Republican amendments.
In the case of unemployment insurance though, it once again all comes down to Obamacare.
While Republicans did offer some legitimate amendments to offset the cost of extending unemployment insurance this year, they also proposed some purely for political purposes. One of those was from Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who wanted a vote on his amendment to delay the individual mandate for a year.
This is what Reid objected to, according to Sahil Kapur.
He knows that delaying the mandate would be a very tough vote for red state Democrats, many of whom are up for reelection this year. It would draw extra attention to the law at a time when Obamacare has fallen off the front page – something most Democrats want to keep going. And it was unlikely to be in the final bill.
McConnell knew this as well, but also knew that for Reid to ensure that it didn’t receive a vote, he would have to shut down the entire amendment process, which would provide Republicans another opportunity to complain about the Majority Leader’s authoritarian leadership.
It was all a political game.
Despite this partisan fighting, the extension for unemployment insurance isn’t dead. Reid has said that he will consider Republican amendments that are relevant to the bill – a.k.a. none related to Obamacare.
Whether Republicans will follow that rule is unclear. If McConnell continues to push for a vote on his amendment to delay the individual mandate, expect Reid to not allow votes on any Republican amendments. If not, maybe they can actually get a deal done.
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