Harry Reid is determined to do nothing productive this year. The Senate majority leader has made it his mission to block votes on bipartisan legislation originating in the Republican-controlled House while bringing Democratic bills to the floor that are designed to fail. It’s a dead-end road paved with intentions to re-elect President Obama.
Last week, the House passed a strongly bipartisan bill which would prevent a job-killing 3 percent withholding tax on all government contractors from going into effect. Even though the White House supports the measure, Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has chosen instead to bring another “small bite” from the president’s failed American Jobs Act to the floor. He wants to hike taxes on business owners so he can blow $60 billion in more stimulus for bike paths, choo-choo trains and bus stops.
Mr. Reid can’t even round up all the Democrats behind his partisan plan, but he continues to drag his feet on items that could pass because the last thing he wants to do is adopt legislation that gives the GOP the chance to take some credit with the public.
The Senate has not been this inactive in at least a quarter-century. As of Tuesday, the Senate had held 194 votes for the year, 54 fewer than at this time last year.
The intransigence has real-world implications. In March, the House passed a strongly bipartisan bill which would have stopped a court order from imposing duplicate and expensive regulations on farmers and ranchers. The Senate never brought the bill up for a vote, and on Monday a key deadline passed, allowing new regulations on pesticide applications to go into effect. That’s bad for jobs.
House Republican leaders want the public to know that they aren’t to blame for the stalemate on Capitol Hill. Speaker John A. Boehner produced a card listing the “forgotten 15” jobs bills that have passed the House but not the Senate. The Ohio Republican gave the card to members, telling them to carry it with them, hold it up at events at home, and flash it during interviews to remind Americans that Republicans are doing everything they can to address the employment situation.
The Democratic strategy is to set up Republicans as a foil for their 2012 re-election bids. Even though the congressional approval rating is down in the single-digits, Mr. Reid wants to draw a distinction between his party and the GOP by only bringing up bills that Republicans will oppose so his caucus can send out accusatory press releases.
The messaging is carefully crafted to fit with Mr. Obama’s latest campaign trail slogans about how “we can’t wait” for Congress to act. He showed his true motives on Tuesday when the president invited congressional Democrats to the White House to ostensibly talk about the jobs agenda. He has no plans to invite Republicans over to chat.
Democrats recognize the economy isn’t going to turn around appreciably between now and Election Day. They are scared to death that the public will blame them for the malaise. It is irresponsible for the Democrats to play political games with 9 percent unemployment and a double-dip recession looming. Mr. Reid should take up the bipartisan, House-passed bills and get something done that would actually help job creators succeed.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.