"We have wasted weeks in this Congress, months in this Congress on dilatory tactics," said Reid. "[W]e have wasted valuable time sitting around doing nothing … it's really unfortunate."

A handful of Republican senators are deploying tools afforded to the minority in the Senate to gum up the works in order to force votes on their amendments, and also in retribution for President Obama's recess appointments, which they say were illegal.

Senate rules allow a single senator to demand 30 hours of consideration and a vote on even mundane matters that have broad support. Only one piece of legislation can sit on the floor at a time, and while the 30 hours are burned, nothing else can be considered.

Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerKamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response Billionaire Steyer to push for Dem House push MORE (D-Calif.) joined Reid on the floor on Tuesday and accused Republicans of acting to harm the nation's infrastructure.

"Republican senators want to bring progress in this country to a halt," she said, speaking of the highway bill, which Democrats and most Republicans hope to pass this week.

The Senate is expected to turn to that bill later in the day after holding a confirmation vote on the confirmation of Judge Adalberto Jordan to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit at noon.