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 ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) to move 15 bipartisan jobs bills that have cleared the lower chamber.
But despite the partisan finger-pointing, there is at least one bill that has bipartisan momentum: Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream 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 EnziTrump should work with Congress to block regulations on prepaid cards GOP wrestles with big question: What now? Top Dem: Trump's State Dept. cuts a 'Ponzi scheme' 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 AlexanderGroups warn of rural health 'crisis' under ObamaCare repeal Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Trump faces risky ObamaCare choice 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 PaulDestructive 'fat cat' tax law a complete flop. It's time to repeal it. Trump must take action in Macedonia to fix damage done by Obama and Clinton We can put America first by preventing public health disasters MORE (R-Ky.) and Richard BurrRichard BurrBurr: US in new Cold War with Russia Senator: No signs of GOP 'slow-walking' Russia investigation GOP senator hits back at criticism of Russia probe 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.