GOP Senators Threaten to Stall Floor Activity

Posted March 10, 2011 at 1:27pm

Updated: 9:30 p.m.

Nine Republican Senators are threatening to block all legislation in the chamber not related to the federal debt.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday saying they will object to bringing up any other legislation while the need to increase the national debt limit looms. The group, led by Sen. David Vitter (La.), said it would relent if Reid guaranteed ample time for debate before the debt limit vote.

“Our objections would be withheld if the Senate agrees to dedicate significant floor time to debate this issue well in advance of the federal government reaching our statutorily mandated debt limit,” the Senators wrote.

Conservatives weren’t happy with this week’s votes on longer-term continuing resolutions, because they were precluded from offering amendments seeking deeper cuts, such as implementing the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations on eliminating wasteful duplication.

The other Senators who signed the letter to Reid are Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), John Ensign (Nev.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Pat Toomey (Pa.). Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) added his name to the letter later Thursday.

Reid spokesman Jon Summers released a one-sentence statement in response to the GOP letter. “After ignoring jobs for months, Republicans are making it official by vowing to block every bill that creates American jobs,” Summers said.

Robert Steurer, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), issued a statement supporting the Senators’ letter.

“Senator McConnell appreciates their focus on the most important issue facing our country right now — the out of control spending and rising national debt — and agrees that there should be sufficient floor time to debate this issue in advance of reaching our statutorily-mandated debt limit,” Steurer said.

The threat already started taking casualties Thursday, with Reid complaining that Republicans were forcing him to file cloture on the motion to proceed to a bipartisan small-business innovation bill.