Arthur Christopher Schaper
Unlike the 113th Congress, paralyzed under Democratic obstruction, the new 114th Congress is Republican driven and controlled, and has moved quickly on key legislative goals. Newly reinstalled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently announced a mini-milestone for the upper chamber: the chamber had allowed more up or down votes on legislative amendments than during the entire session of the previous Congress. Despite the media bias blaming Republicans in the House, the Democrats were running the chamber into frustrating, hyperpartisan gridlock, led by US Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).
The first major order of business for the new Senate, construction of the Keystone pipeline, had stalled in Congress for six years, even though the President’s own state department has ruled that the project would have a minimal effect on the environment. Keystone promoters also pointed out that the Federal District Court had thrown at a lawsuit to enjoin construction of the pipeline, plus the fact that the project would provide jobs and a reliable energy resource for the American people.
Of course, the now-removed Democratic majority enjoyed a last-minute opportunity to pass the bill. Former US Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) fought for her political life in the 113th Congress’ lame-duck session. Despite pleading with her liberal colleagues, and gaining the support of every Republican, she could not muster the necessary votes to override a filibuster. Keystone was delayed, and Landrieu lost her seat.
One month later, with a Republican majority, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the new leaders agreed to an open amendment process, permitting the diminished opposition to bring forth their own amendments, including statutes which recognized that climate change is not a hoax.
There were some hiccups along the way, of course, for the minority caucus, unaccustomed to having their way prevented by a Republican majority for eight years.
US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced another amendment:
Senate Amendment 28
To require campaign finance disclosures for certain persons benefitting from tar sands development.
Why not an amendment preventing US Senators from blocking legislative business to fundraise from liberal billionaires?
The Ocean State’s other US Senator, Jack Reed, introduced this amendment:
Senate Amendment 74
To express the sense of the Senate that the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program should be funded at not less than $4,700,000,000 annually.
And where would Reed like to get these billions? From the same working poor who cannot light their home furnaces?
Honestly, there was very little likelihood that either Rhode Island Senator would approve the Keystone Pipeline. Whitehouse the Climate Alarmist has found a reliable, though less loquacious, ally in senior senator Reed, and both have talked up the issue to their colleagues, despite the rising tide of evidence disputing the seriousness (or the validity) of climate change.
In stunning, no-nonsense fashion, Majority Leader McConnell tabled these amendments, along with three others, within ten minutes. Republicans are not only pressing ahead, but moving quickly. Liberal Democrats shouted for one minute to defend their amendments to the chamber, but were summarily cut off. Contrary to trolling Tea Party websites and frustrated conservative radio shock-jocks, Senate Republicans are not playing nice, but turning the tables on their Democratic counterparts.
Senator Whitehouse begged for a reprieve on his amendment:
Mr. President! Mr. President! Unanimous consent for just one minute to defend my amendment?
Whitehouse has already given eighty-three speeches on his pet green agenda. Isn’t that enough?
West Point grad Reed sounded off, but went down in flames, too:
Mr. President! Mr. President! No one was listening. No more Mr. Nice Mitch.
Democrats tried to take the upper hand, and twice voted against cloture on Keystone the next day. CNN reported:
"Sen. McConnell promised Democrats an open amendment process and a full-throated debate on the Keystone pipeline and we are holding him to that promise," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, a Keystone opponent. "Trying to muzzle the debate by refusing to allow Democrats even one minute to advocate for their amendment and then simply refusing to hold votes on dozens of amendments is not remotely an open process."
"We've had a lot of floor discussion. We've considered Democrat and Republican amendments," McConnell said before the vote.
"I'm calling on all of my colleagues -- especially the co-sponsors of this bipartisan bill, especially those who've supported Keystone without any amendments in the past -- to vote for jobs and progress tonight, not the kind of gridlock American voters just rejected so emphatically," he said.
Voting on a winning issue, connecting with supportive Democrats and a unified Republican conference, McConnell pressured the minority to start playing along, or pay the price in the long-run. Keystone finally passed the US Senate, with nine Democrats crossing over in support. US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Harry Reid (D-NV) did not vote.
The White House has threatened a veto, once again putting the Democratic Party in the position of unenvied obstructionists on a slam-dunk issue, widely support from the mainstream voters to the liberal media. Republicans are playing faster, swifter, and smarter this legislative session, demonstrating a capacity to govern, forge bipartisan agreements, and push back without hesitation or compromise.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a writer, blogger, and political commentator on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.