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 ReidTrump gets chance to remake the courts Democrats local party problem Trump flirts with Dems for Cabinet 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 HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? 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 EnziMike EnziPresident-elect Trump: Please drain the student loan swamp Liz Cheney wins Wyoming House seat GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderKey Republicans ask Trump to keep on NIH director McConnell tees up medical cures bill Speculation and starting points: accreditation, a new administration and a new Congress 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 PaulRand PaulGOP rep: Trump has 'extra-constitutional' view of presidency The ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? Rand Paul skeptical about Romney as secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) and Richard BurrRichard BurrDems pledge to fight Sessions nomination Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates Shakeup on Senate Intel: Warner becomes top Dem 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.