Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Monday that Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) success in blocking minority amendments to legislation is destroying the Senate, and called on Reid to act like some of the more successful majority leaders over the last few decades.
"By his actions, the majority leader is destroying the Senate, which was once described as the one touch of authentic genius in the American political system," Alexander said on the Senate floor.
Alexander was reacting to Reid's decision to limit amendments to a bill extending emergency unemployment benefits. Reid has said he could allow some "relevant" amendments to the bill, but as of Monday afternoon, there was no deal on which GOP proposals might be considered on how to pay for the extension.
Last week, Reid said he wouldn't allow any amendments at all, which led Alexander and others to say the Senate has become a body that only passes ideas that Reid supports.
"The majority leader's actions go to the very heart of our government," Alexander said. "Tennesseans didn't send me to Washington to rubber stamp the majority leader's ideas, not this majority leader, not any majority leader."
Alexander also recommended that Reid model his leadership on prior majority leaders of both parties in who were known for working with the minority party.
"The current majority leader, I would respectfully suggest, could start by following the example of Majority Leaders Robert Byrd, the Democrat, and Howard Baker, the Republican," he said. "They were not afraid — those majority leaders — to allow amendments. They were not afraid to defeat amendments."
Alexander predicted that if Reid were to work more cooperatively with Republicans, he wouldn't have to work so hard fighting off GOP proposals that he doesn't support. "Almost all of the effort to keep bills from coming to the floor has to do with minority members not being allowed to have the say of the people who elected them to serve," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made similar complaints about Reid's leadership earlier today. Alexander was followed immediately by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who agreed that Reid's actions are hurting the Senate.
"Every leader has tried to protect their side, but this has gone to the point of ridiculousness and the denigration of the Senate itself," he said.