Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
After a month of praising bipartisanship, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lashed out at the GOP on the Senate floor Wednesday when a Medicare measure he brought up for a vote failed amid concerns about its impact on the deficit.
The bill would have prevented a 20 percent drop in Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors that is scheduled to take effect in January.
Reid angrily blamed the loss on bad intelligence from the American Medical Association, which he said promised him 27 Republican votes (he got none), as well as Republican dirty tricks designed to impede Democrats' progress on meaningful reform.
He made no mention of the 13 Democrats who sided with Republicans with statements of concern over ballooning deficits and budget overruns, nor that the Medicare measure failed to get even a simple majority of senators.
"I want everyone within the sound of my voice to understand that Washington is being driven by a small number of people on that side of the aisle that are preventing us from doing things that help the American people," Reid said. "We're not trying to run over people with the 60 votes we have. We want to work with people. We want to get along."
Senate procedures give Republicans an array of tactical maneuvers that they have used to delay, if not derail, Reid's agenda. While the House has passed all 13 of its appropriations bills, climate change, and health care bills (at the committee level), the Senate schedule has lagged. When House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was asked Tuesday why the House schedule was so light, he said that the Senate has not sent back enough legislation for the House to respond to.
As Republicans have succeeded in stalling votes, Reid's statements have escalated from terse to downright angry. Last week he accused Republicans of trying to kill health care reform, saying, "Republicans will do everything in their power to stop reform this time." When asked Tuesday why the Senate had not passed an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, Reid responded, "The word starts with an R.' Republicans. Republicans."
On Wednesday, Reid said the entire Senate agenda was falling prey to the GOP of past and present.
"I think it's too bad that suddenly, (Republicans) have gotten religion," Reid said after the vote, visibly frustrated. "They never worried in the past about all these tax cuts being paid for. They never worried about the drug manufacturers getting all the free stuff they got. They never worried about any of this. They suddenly are being very frugal, very frugal when they've figured out it's a way to slow down what we do here."
Even with 60 Democrtic votes, veteran political watchers acknowledge that Reid's task of holding together his unwieldy caucus is difficult, if not impossible. "It's difficult to move things in the Senate," Hoyer said. "I think Reid has the most frustrating job in American government."