A bill in motion

House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House are frustrated with the lack of legislation coming out of the 112th Congress.

The parties, of course, blame each other. The GOP-controlled House has called on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.) to move 15 bipartisan jobs bills that have cleared the lower chamber. 

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House Democrats, in turn, accuse Republicans of blocking Obama’s jobs package as well as a China currency bill that has cleared the Senate. 

But despite the partisan finger-pointing, there is at least one bill that has bipartisan momentum: Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinThe Hill's 12:30 Report Distance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds MORE’s (D-Iowa) rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law. 

Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, recently struck a deal with the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThis week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed Senate GOP budget paves way for .5T in tax cuts MORE (Wyo.), and the measure cleared the panel last week, 15-7.

There is a decent chance that the Senate will tackle the bill before the end of 2011; Harkin said on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program that he is hoping for a vote by Christmas.

He also indicated he has reached a deal with Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance MORE (R-Tenn.) on how the bill will overcome procedural obstacles on the Senate floor, but declined to elaborate. 

The politics of this legislation are fascinating, because both left and right have attacked it. Liberal groups lament the lack of performance targets, while Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Authorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient GOP feuds with outside group over analysis of tax framework MORE (R-Ky.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTrump: Why isn't Senate looking into 'Fake News Networks'? Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Special counsel looking into dossier as part of Russia probe: report MORE (R-N.C.) have ripped the way Harkin moved the measure through committee. 

Yet the bill was supported by other senators on the committee, notably Alexander, who is a member of the Republican leadership.

Alexander, a former Education secretary, announced this fall that he will be leaving his leadership post. He wants to legislate, and said his decision was liberating. The implication was that as a member of leadership, his hands have been tied. 

The 15-7 vote in committee signals that the floor vote could attract a lot of bipartisan support (especially because there are Republicans who voted no in committee, but might vote yes on the final bill). 

Passage of the measure would be a significant accomplishment for Harkin, and it would put the House on the spot. House Republicans want to move education legislation this Congress on a piecemeal approach, which would present major challenges in conference negotiations. 

Politically, Senate Democrats could use the passage of Harkin’s bill as ammunition against the House GOP in the 2012 elections. That dynamic could give Republicans a reason to block the bill.

But for the moment, Harkin’s legislation is on the move in what has been a slow-moving Congress.