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Senate GOP’s Floor Show Takes Aim at Barack Obama, Senate Democrats

Senate Republicans used a set of short, coordinated speeches this morning to make their case against President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats, deriding what they called a lack of leadership.

It made for an unusual sight inside the chamber, with most of the Senate GOP conference sitting at their desks and actually listening to their colleagues make brief presentations on issues ranging from job creation to gas prices.

And the participants spanned the GOP’s political spectrum.

“It is astounding to me … that after putting the nation through the self-inflicted travesty of last year’s debt ceiling debacle, that we’re facing another manufactured crisis this year with a fiscal cliff that never would have existed if the Senate had remained in session, had fewer recesses and maximized every legislative day based on the job we were elected to do as I have argued virtually throughout this entire Congress,” said retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, a moderate from Maine.

Sen. Jim DeMint, who is on the other end of ideological spectrum as a tea party favorite, used his brief speech to criticize Obama on the economy.

“President Obama, when you took office almost four years ago, you promised to create jobs and to reduce our deficit. Yet, four years later, we have fewer Americans working than in the last 30 years and we have historic debt and deficits,” the South Carolina Republican said. “Now you say raising taxes will solve our problems, but those who create jobs disagree.”

Many sounded familiar notes, with frequent references to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) not bringing a budget resolution to the floor.

“If we are to come to a compromise, we have to have offers on both sides. We have to have a plan on both sides, and so all the calls for civility, all the calls for compromise really fall on deaf ears unless or until we have two willing parties at the table with proposals that they’re willing to offer,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) renewed his promise to bring a budget resolution to the floor next Congress if Republicans pick up the seats required in the November election to make him the Majority Leader.

“Over the past two years, the Democratic Senate has seen itself as an extension of the president’s re-election campaign rather than a forum for solving the nation’s problems. Everything it’s done and hasn’t [been] done is meant to help the president, not the American people,” McConnell charged. “So our problems have only gotten worse, and the Senate has of course completely broken down as an institution.”

The budget criticism has been a favorite talking point of Republicans in bashing Democrats for more than a year. Senate Democrats often respond – as Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) did later on the floor – that the debt limit deal from last year set spending caps in law for two years. Conrad, for example, noted the debt deal has the force of law, while a budget resolution would not.

After the GOP display, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) decried what he called GOP “amnesia” on budget issues, noting that many of the Republican Senators on the floor this morning voted in favor of the debt limit deal, which McConnell was key to negotiating.

Reid also responded to McConnell by highlighting McConnell’s statement that his top goal was ensuring Obama did not win re-election.

“This has been a remarkable show of hubris or arrogance from the Republican side of the aisle,” Reid said.

He also renewed his call to change the Senate rules to expedite procedural motions to overcome GOP obstruction, recognizing Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) for leadership on that issue.

“I’ve had to file motions to overcome 382 filibusters in six years. Now, I know the Senate has changed since Lyndon Johnson was the Majority Leader, but during the six years that he was the Majority Leader, he had to file cloture once,” Reid said.

Of course, in that era, filibusters were typically reserved for the great issues of the day, such as opposition to the 1964 civil rights bill. In the modern Senate, Reid files cloture to cut off debate as a means to force bills to the floor, limit amendments or prevent anticipated delays.

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