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“The big winner today was obstruction,” Mr. Reid said.

Yesterday afternoon Mr. DeMint turned his attention to pork-barrel spending, holding up Democrats’ effort to form a House-Senate conference on an ethics bill without assurances from the Democrats they won’t water down rules on earmarks that the Senate has already approved.

Democrats were enraged, accusing Republicans of trying to hold up the chamber.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat and, like Mr. DeMint, Mr. Vitter and Mr. Thune, a former House member, said the Republicans were abusing their newfound freedoms in the Senate.

“Some people come over here from the House, and they decide that they’re going to just use the rules of the Senate to call attention to what they think is the issue of the day,” she said.

Throughout the debate this week the Republicans were without the aid of their own leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican ducked the fight, not speaking on the floor at all Wednesday and waiting until late afternoon yesterday, long after the debate had ended, to explain himself.

But he never explained his own vote yesterday to block the bill, after supporting it earlier this week, and after having said repeatedly it was a better bill than last year’s — a bill he voted for.

“I had hoped for a bipartisan accomplishment and what we got was a bipartisan defeat,” he said.