Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that he would only allow "relevant" GOP amendments to the unemployment extension bill, but would not entertain non-germane proposals, including those meant to attack ObamaCare.
"We cannot have extension of emergency employment insurance to be bogged down by a raft of political amendments," Reid said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.
Last week, Reid proposed an 11-month extension of emergency unemployment benefits, paid for by extending the sequester until 2024. Reid initially said he wanted no amendments at all to his proposal, but he has since said he would consider "reasonable" GOP amendments.
"If Republicans are serious about offering relevant amendments to strengthen and improve this bill, I'm willing to sit down and talk about it," he said. "I'm willing to allow votes on these amendments.
"However, I am not going to allow this legislation to be bogged down … by meaningless votes or derailed by another doomed crusade to strip millions of Americans of the affordable care that they have now."
Republicans have proposed other "pay-fors," including ensuring people can't simultaneously claim disability and unemployment benefits, blocking illegal aliens from using child tax credits and delaying ObamaCare for one year. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said immediately after Reid spoke that the reason for the slow-down of the bill in the Senate is Reid's refusal to allow any consideration of GOP amendments.
"The reason for the holdup should be pretty obvious at this point," he said. "Republicans have a lot of good ideas on how to pay for this extension. We also have a lot of proposals for getting at the root of the problem, proposals that would make it easier for folks who are struggling in this economy to actually find stable and fulfilling work.
"The majority leader should give other senators more of a say on what we do around here, including members of his own conference," he added, noting that Reid alone is deciding which amendments are "germane" and would be given a vote.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has also complained repeatedly about Reid's tactics and said the Senate is not working correctly because Reid alone is deciding which amendments and bills can come up. Grassley called Reid a "one-man version of the House Rules Committee."
Reid and McConnell spoke for just under 10 minutes on the Senate floor before their public comments, but that conversation was not enough to agree on a plan for moving forward with the bill this week. Later today, the Senate is scheduled to hold at least one vote to end debate on Reid's amendment to the bill, S. 1845.
But Reid said that vote might have to be delayed until Tuesday, as the two parties continue negotiating a path forward on amendments.
Reid also blamed Republicans for delaying consideration of executive branch nominees. He said Secretary of State John Kerry asked Senate leaders to speed up the nominations process, as one-third of Kerry's top political appointees are still not confirmed.
"My Republican colleagues have been very effective at creating gridlock in this body, at preventing the Senate from doing its job," Reid said. "And while this type of obstruction may serve Republicans' political purposes, it does not serve this country's purposes generally, that's for sure."
McConnell rejected that argument and said nominations have slowed only because Senate Democrats last year decided to strip the GOP's right to filibuster these nominations.