- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2014

Congress is taking on different battles in 2014, but the partisan fighting will remain largely the same and Republicans are to blame, according to the Senate’s top Democrat.

“Unless the Republicans in Congress decide they should do something for the American people, I’m sorry to say that’s true,” Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Sunday on “Face the Nation, when asked if 2014 would be as unproductive as 2013.

Congress has a full plate of must-pass legislation over the next few months, including appropriations bills that keep the government funded and raising the debt ceiling so the country doesn’t default on its debt. Lawmakers also hope to address extending unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage and immigration reform in 2014.

While Mr. Reid expects the omnibus appropriations bill to pass Congress, it won’t be easy considering how Republicans behaved in the last debt ceiling battle in 2013, he said.

“I am afraid. Why am I afraid? It was just a matter of a couple of months ago that two thirds of the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to keep the government closed and default on the debt. So I hope we can get this done,” Mr. Reid said. “I am really concerned about what’s going on with Republicans in Congress.”

Though Mr. Reid placed all the blame for congressional dysfunction on Republicans, Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, said any failure in the future could be traced back to the majority leader’s pessimistic remarks Sunday on the talk show.

“That’s the wrong attitude to have at the beginning of the year,” he said, responding to Mr. Reid’s comments on “Face the Nation.” “On all the issues he was talking about, I think there’s a possibility for compromise. But if he’s going to be talking from Day 1 or implying that there could be shutdowns, to me that’s the wrong way to start. It’s the wrong message to send. And if something does happen, I think it can be traced right back to this show this morning, based on what Sen. Reid said.”

Others have been more optimistic. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said he thinks 2014 is the year Congress will address immigration reform, both because it will politically benefit the party in an election year and because of Speaker John A. Boehner’s break with the tea party during budget negotiations after groups came out against the deal before it was even finalized.

“For the first time, Speaker Boehner said he won’t let the minority of his caucus — the tea party minority — run the show,” Mr. Schumer said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

While partisan fights are nothing new to Washington, tension in the upper chamber has been ratcheted even higher since Mr. Reid enacted the so-called “nuclear option” in November, effectively halting filibusters on some presidential nominees.

While he said he wasn’t yet considering another rule change to prevent Republican filibusters on other legislation, he did not rule it out in the future if gridlock continues.

“We’re not there yet,” he said. “I’m not thinking about it today. But I think everyone should understand that the country cannot continue on the road that it’s on.”

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