The top Democrat and Republican in the Senate sparred Tuesday morning over whether judges or a House-passed jobs bill should be next on the agenda following the Senate's expected passage of a new transportation bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered to allow a swift vote on the JOBS Act, a Republican-led jobs bill that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, in exchange for Republicans dropping their objections to confirming some of President Obama's judicial nominees.
Republicans, in turn, accused Reid of holding their jobs bill hostage until they relent on the would-be judges.
The only thing preventing the Senate from moving quickly to tackle these items," Reid said in reference to the JOBS Act and a series of other legislative priorities, "is what we've had this whole Congress: obstructionism by my friends, the Republicans."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday morning on the Senate floor: "I think most Senators would rather be working on things that the American people believe would actually help create jobs than to see the Senate embroiled in another controversy which I fear my good friend, the majority leader, is seeking to precipitate."
It's part of a fight Senate Democrats have picked a fight with Republicans this week over judicial nominees. Democrats accuse Republicans of slowing down and blocking the confirmation process for U.S. district judges.
A handful of Republicans, led by freshman Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), have been holding up votes on judges in protest over President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection board.
To retaliate, Reid has moved to hold cloture votes on 17 judge nominations starting tomorrow. Each judge vote could tie up the Senate floor for weeks absent an agreement with Senate Republicans.
Early indications are Republicans will fight Reid on this and not agree to dispense quickly with the judge votes. Democrats welcome this, of course, because it helps them paint Republicans as obstructionists.
McConnell this morning accused Reid of manufacturing a controversy over the judges. He argued the Senate should move right away to the JOBS bill that passed the House with 390 votes.
"It is highly unlikely any of these district judges are not going to be confirmed," McConnell said. "We've done seven this year. District judges are almost never defeated. This is just a very transparent attempt to try to slam dunk the minority and make them look like they're obstructing things they aren't obstructing."