Reid, McConnell Trade Tactics On Senate Floor Over Looming Government Shutdown

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We’re at that point again. The one where Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell try to prove they’re not precipitating a government shutdown.

On the Senate floor Wednesday morning, each leader pulled a couple confusing procedural levers designed to prove the other is acting in bad faith.

To recap, last night the House passed partisan legislation to renew the expiring payroll tax holiday, replete with payfors and add-ons that led all but 10 Democrats to reject it. Democrats in the Senate don’t want Republicans to leave town for the holidays and jam them with that bill so they’re playing a bit of hardball. They’ve raised objections to a number of riders and provisions in separate legislation to fund the government, which will shutdown Friday night if appropriations aren’t passed. If Republicans skip town, they’re shutting down the government. And Reid is using this leverage to force Republicans to deal on Democrats’ terms on both bills.

So what happened this morning?After opening Reid asked for unanimous consent to bring the House GOP payroll tax cut bill to the floor — to prove it’s DOA. Remember, the Senate takes forever to do most things, but if there’s unanimous consent to do something, it happens in a blink. But McConnell objected, on the grounds that the vote on the House GOP payroll bill should come after votes on legislation to fund the government. Reid objected, noting that there are outstanding disagreements on the government funding package — but crucially, if Senate Dems sign off on legislation to fund the government, Republicans can fly home, leaving Democrats a choice between swallowing the GOP’s partisan payroll tax cut legislation whole, or letting the tax cut expire on January 1.

To prove his good faith, Reid asked for unanimous consent to drop everything and turn to a short-term measure to keep the government funded while leaders negotiate a compromise on the payroll tax bill. McConnell objected to that as well, arguing that a full-year appropriations bill is all but ready to go.

If that’s not totally clear, the end result is that nothing happened. But both men did tip their hands. Reid’s moves suggests Dems aren’t ready to give up the leverage that comes with holding on to the government funding legislation until the payroll tax issue is resolved. And McConnell’s move suggests Republicans are eager to jam Democrats with their partisan bill, without sitting down to negotiate a compromise. In case that wasn’t already clear to you before.

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