Biden storms Capitol to lambaste GOP for inaction

Greg Nash/The Hill
Vice President Biden stormed Capitol Hill on Thursday to amplify the Democrats’ long-held charge that Republican “dysfunction” has paralyzed Congress at the expense of the country.
Appearing on the steps of the Capitol on a sweltering day in Washington, the vice president accused the Republicans of undermining the judiciary system by blocking President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee; threatening public health by stonewalling legislation to address the spread of the Zika virus; and endangering public safety by ignoring proposals to rein in gun violence.
{mosads}Flanked by Democrats from both the House and Senate, Biden called on GOP leaders to tackle all three without delay.
“Some of the things we’re dealing with now are bigger than partisan politics,” Biden said. “We’re facing a simple reality: We’re not doing the people’s most urgent business.” 
On Zika, Biden urged GOP leaders to drop controversial riders and pass a clean bill to fund new research and prevention programs — a reference to a Republican provision barring Planned Parenthood from receiving new funds for contraception.
“It is a genuine health threat. It’s here. It’s consequential. Deal with it. Give us an up-or-down vote straight on Zika,” Biden said. 
“Look, I’ve been here a long time in the Senate. I understand [the game of] tacking controversial issues to important legislation. But not for national emergencies.”
Shifting to Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, Biden lambasted Senate Republicans for refusing to hold a vote on Garland’s confirmation — something he framed as a dereliction of their constitutional responsibilities.
“We’re setting an incredibly dangerous precedent in the institution that I love,” said Biden, who once chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It is the Senate’s responsibility to act, up or down. … There are real consequences for continuing to leave this post vacant.”
Lastly, on the issue of guns, Biden urged GOP leaders to consider legislation — dubbed “no-fly, no-buy” — to ban firearms sales to those on the FBI’s terrorist watchlists. 
“There is an overwhelming consensus in America: If you can’t fly, you shouldn’t be able to buy,” he said. 
Most of Biden’s message will fall on deaf ears: Republican leaders are adamantly opposed to considering either the Garland nomination or tougher gun laws this year. 
But the vice president’s visit came as GOP leaders are attempting to pass legislation to fund the government beyond Sept. 30, when the money expires, and provide new funding to fight Zika — a mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects in the newborns of women who contract it while pregnant — which is quickly being exhausted. 
Senate Republicans tried to pass a $1.1 billion Zika bill on Tuesday, but it was shot down by Democrats opposed to the Planned Parenthood language. 
Republican leaders have pounced on that — and similar votes in the past — as proof that the Democrats are creating the impasse.
“They need to get past the politics and work with us to protect the public,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he’ll soon introduce a stopgap spending bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to extend government funding to early December. 
And House Republicans will huddle Friday to discuss a path forward on both Zika and the CR. As the clock ticks toward Sept. 30, there’s an increasing expectation that the two bills will move as a single package.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are hoping to use the ongoing stalemate as evidence that Republican infighting has left the GOP incapable of governing. 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who walked down the Capitol steps Thursday with her hand in Biden’s, accused the Republicans of “wasting time with bills that are going nowhere.” 
And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) piled on, accusing GOP leaders of “squandering the resources of this country.”
Biden, for his part, emphasized his “close personal relationship with the Republican leadership” in both chambers. But that didn’t stop him from lodging charges that the “dysfunctional” GOP-led Congress is impeding progress on countless fronts, including foreign policy. 
“It’s real. I’m not exaggerating,” Biden said. “We’ve got to end the dysfunction.”
Tags Harry Reid Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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