Republicans, Democrats trade attacks on Supreme Court, obstruction

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Republicans accused Democrats of bullying the Supreme Court to uphold the legality of the Obama administration's healthcare reform law. Democrats responded by saying Republicans were refusing to agree to pass any legislation (even those with GOP support) in order to paint Democrats as ineffective legislators.

First came a series of speeches by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Grassley said that Democrats were actively urging the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Obama administration's healthcare reform law. The court is set to hand down a ruling on whether the law is constitutional in June.

"Political leaders from the Democratic side of the aisle are now preemptively charging the Supreme Court with judicial court with judicial activism if that court would strike down President Obama's healthcare law as unconstitutional," Grassley said. "I cannot remember when such a significant threat to judicial independence was made by attempting to affect the outcome of an impending case. It's an outrageous attack on the separation of power."

Lee called on Democrats to "stop yelling" at the high court.

"I hope and I trust that moving forward, President Obama and my colleagues in this body will refrain from attempting to bully the Supreme Court who are seeking to misrepresent the court's important work in fulfilling its constitutional duties," Lee said. "Let's stop yelling at the referees and let the Supreme Court do its job while we do ours."

Kyl followed Lee saying that Democrats should wait until the Supreme Court has handed down its ruling to react.

"I can't guess how the court is going to rule, it may not agree with my views, but I suggest that political leaders in the executive and legislative branches need to cool their rhetoric — as my colleague said stop yelling to the umpire, stop the thinly veiled threats, and react to the ruling after its been rendered rather than before," Kyl said. 

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took the floor, he said Republicans have displayed a thinly veiled strategy of unnecessary obstruction throughout the entire 112th Congress.

"Consistently this Congress has taken weeks or months to pass even simple commonsense legislation. Proposals that would previously have passed in minutes — the Senate has wasted literally months considering bipartisan bills only to have those bills smothered to death under piles of non relevant Republicans amendments," Reid said. "And Congressional Republicans have held even the most important jobs measures hostage to extract votes on unrelated, ideological amendments despite the minority leader's own call to 'stop all the show votes' — those were his words. Mr. President, Democrats and the American people have endured this obstruction all year, in fact, for 18 months."

Reid referenced an often-cited statement by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that the top priority for Republicans was to make President Obama a one-term president.

"They're headed in doing whatever they can, whatever it takes to try and make President Obama a one term president," Reid continued. "Mr. President, we're fighting back from the greatest recession since the Great Depression. Yet Republicans' top priority hasn't been to create jobs. Their top priority wasn't to help business grow and have people hire workers. It wasn't to train the next generation of skilled employees and hire more cops and firefighters and put construction crews back to work."

But Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that there was a "silent majority" of Republicans working with Democrats and that it was actually possible to still pass legislation.

"Even as the loudest voices on the Republican side cite the President's defeat as their number one goal, I believe there's a silent majority within the Republican caucus that yearns to come together and address the nation's problems free of bipartisan politics," Schumer said.

Schumer also responded to comments by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggesting that legislating was effectively over until after the Nov. 6 presidential election. Schumer mentioned a briefing he attended organized by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) earlier in the week.

"Believe me, no one in that room thinks as Leader Cantor apparently does that these issues should be put off till the election," Schumer said. "The conversations were quite preliminary for sure but all the motivation of the senators that attended were pure."

Schumer also praised Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as Republicans actually interested in legislating even if it meant bucking the "party's orthodoxy."

Schumer said Cantor was wrong and that the Senate could bring the parties together.

"I suggest to Leader Cantor, Washington doesn't need an election to bridge our differences, it needs the Senate," Schumer said.