In his July 25 "Politico Playbook," Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen uncritically quoted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claiming that "the first six or seven months of this Congress have basically not been very productive." According to McConnell: "We've had excessive Iraq votes, excessive investigations, and not much legislating. Managed to keep the lights on and managed to do a troop-funding bill that was important, but that's really about it for the first seven months." Allen offered no challenge to McConnell's attack on Congress' "productiv[ity]"; in fact, Republicans have repeatedly blocked legislation proposed by the Democratic majority in the Senate. As Media Matters for America noted, McClatchy Newspapers reported on July 20: "This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before."
Additionally, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) acknowledged the GOP's "obstructionist" Senate strategy in an April 18 Roll Call article (subscription required): "The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. ... For [former Senate Democratic Leader Tom] Daschle (S.D.), it failed. For [then-Senate Minority Leader Harry] Reid [D-NV], it succeeded, and so far it's working for us."
A NEW SIGN that Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may have a real challenge next year. From the Lexington Herald-Leader: "Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, filed papers [Monday] allowing him to raise and spend money to evaluate whether he should challenge U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2008. "I am keeping my options open. I am excited about gathering the facts and doing the ground work on this important election," Stumbo said in an e-mail sent to reporters. "It is time we remind Mitch McConnell that he represents Kentucky not George Bush."
LEADER McCONNELL AT A POST-LUNCH AVAIL YESTERDAY: "I think the first six or seven months of this Congress have basically not been very productive. We've had excessive Iraq votes, excessive investigations, and not much legislating. Managed to keep the lights on and managed to do a troop-funding bill that was important, but that's really about it for the first seven months. Having said that, I'm somewhat optimistic going into the last two weeks that the majority may have figured out the way to get things done around here. We're about to pass a higher education bill on a bipartisan basis. ... I think finally getting around to doing at least one of the appropriation bills is a good thing. ... I think we've got a chance of getting there on the 9/11 bill. ... And I remain optimistic that we're going to finally pass a lobby ethics bill."
McClatchy reported in a July 20 article:
Seven months into the current two-year term, the Senate has held 42 "cloture" votes aimed at shutting off extended debate -- filibusters, or sometimes only the threat of one -- and moving to up-or-down votes on contested legislation. Under Senate rules that protect a minority's right to debate, these votes require a 60-vote supermajority in the 100-member Senate.
Democrats have trouble mustering 60 votes; they've fallen short 22 times so far this year. That's largely why they haven't been able to deliver on their campaign promises.
By sinking a cloture vote this week, Republicans successfully blocked a Democratic bid to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by April, even though a 52-49 [sic: 52-47] Senate majority voted to end debate.
This year Republicans also have blocked votes on immigration legislation, a no-confidence resolution for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and major legislation dealing with energy, labor rights and prescription drugs.
Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes - 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.