OPIOID SERIES:

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 Mason ReidDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs 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 HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law 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 EnziAbolishing Budget Committee hits a symptom, not the disease Supreme Court weighs future of online sales taxes The Hill's Morning Report: Hannity drawn into Cohen legal fight 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 AlexanderMaternal deaths keep rising in US, raising scrutiny Supreme Court weighs future of online sales taxes Senators press administration on mental health parity 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 PaulOvernight Defense: Congress poised for busy week on nominations, defense bill | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump administration appeals decision to block suspected combatant's transfer Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo Overnight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes MORE (R-Ky.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Cybersecurity: Staff changes upend White House cyber team | Trump sends cyber war strategy to Congress | CIA pick to get hearing in May | Malware hits Facebook accounts Senators express concerns over Haspel's 'destruction of evidence' Overnight Cybersecurity: US, UK blame Russia for global cyberattacks | Top cyber official leaving White House | Zuckerberg to meet EU digital chief 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.