Senate Paralyzed by Deep Rift Between Party Leaders

Monday, 21 Jul 2014 12:16 PM

By Melanie Batley

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The personal war between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has brought the Senate to a virtual standstill, The Washington Post reported.

Distrust and antagonism between the two has become so intense that the chamber has been reduced to dysfunction, according to the Post.

"The Senate went three months this spring without voting on a single legislative amendment, the nitty-gritty kind of work usually at the heart of congressional lawmaking," the Post's Paul Kane wrote. "The big issues have been sidelined by political and procedural battles and an intensely personal war between the leadership offices."

Senators have told the Post that they feel like "pawns" and many say they are spending most of their time on insignificant and unrewarding work.

A small group of Democrats and Republicans have been meeting secretly to try to break the standoff, but without success.

Former Senate leaders Democrat Thomas Daschle and Republican Trent Lott are publicly trying to steer the chamber back toward effectiveness, the Post reported.

"The Senate has degenerated into a polarized mess," the former majority leaders recently wrote in a report that criticized both sides, according to the Post.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has been trying to bring both sides together through regular meetings but to no avail.

"I can get them all together," Manchin told the Post. "They're still not breaking the gridlock, because you know why? The gridlock is cloistered in a very small arena — the leadership."

The problem also stems from the stakes each party has in the outcome of the 2014 elections, and each party's strategy to win control the Senate, according to the Post. The consequences are so significant that neither McConnell nor Reid are willing to work together to vote on legislation that could give electoral traction to the opposing party.

"The result has been months and months of fractious procedural fights on legislation," the Post reported. Voting has been reduced to confirmations of political appointments, with the exception of minor progress last week on a program to protect insurance companies from terrorism, which won overwhelming approval.

"The Congress is probably weaker than it's ever been," Daschle said, suggesting that the gridlock and instability in the House has given the president and governors the opportunity to seize power through executive actions.

Others, such as Lott, say the problem also comes from the disappearance of elder influential lawmakers such as Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, and Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn. Almost half the chamber's members have served less than one term, the Post noted.

"There were characters, personalities, men, mostly, that had disproportionate personalities and influence on the institution. There are none now," Lott said, according to the Post.

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