For more than 40 minutes on the Senate floor this morning, Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went back and forth in a very personal way over who was more responsible for dysfunction in the Senate.
McConnell asked Reid to hold this exchange on the floor after Reid told MSNBC's Ed Schultz last week he would consider changing the Senate rules in the next Congress -- with approval ratings at historic lows -- in order to pass more legislation with a simple majority versus the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
The two leaders at times interrupted each other.
McConnell charged that Reid has centralized the Senate business in his office, made other senators and committees irrelevant and prevented Republicans from participating in the legislative process. He called on the majority leader to proceed with the Defense Authorization bill, a Senate budget, appropriations bills and cybersecurity legislation.
"We have a big difference of opinion here about the way this place is being run,” McConnell said, “and it’s not a rules problem; it’s an attitude problem. It's a looking-for-somebody-else-to-blame game," McConnell said.
He continued, "The majority leader is basically trying to convince the American people that it’s somebody else's fault, that the Senate is not doing the basic work of government. Regardless of the blame game, the results are apparent.”
Reid blamed Republicans for repeatedly stalling legislation by filibustering bills. He said the Senate can't do its work when House Republicans are not being serious about legislating. He charged that Republicans had become a party of extreme ideology, unwilling to compromise.
"For the Republican leader with a straight face to come here and say why aren't we doing the defense authorization bill, why aren't we doing the appropriation bills, everyone knows why we're not doing them,” Reid said. “They haven't let us get to virtually anything. And to be dismissive of me, because I say the Republican leadership in the House has been dismissive of the law we have guiding this country, I think says it all."
Reid repeatedly cited an op-ed from April from by longtime neutral congressional watchers Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution – a left-leaning think tank -- and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute – a right-leaning think tank -- which argued the Republican Party has become an "insurgent outlier in American politics"
McConnell said he had to restrain his laughter, lambasting the authors as "ultra, ultra liberals"
McConnell pointed the finger back at Reid.
“He has the opportunity to set the agenda,” McConnell said, “and just because all 100 senators don't immediately fall into line, and it may be a little bit difficult, is no excuse for not doing the important and basic work that the American people sent us here to do. It's time to bring up serious legislation."
Reid contended the body hasn’t been able to get to big measures.
“We have simply not been able to get to the appropriation bills,” Reid said, before McConnell interrupted him.
“Have you tried calling any of them up?” the minority leader interjected.
“Mr. President,” Reid said to the presiding officer, “I don’t think it calls for my being interrupted here. I've listened very patiently to all his name calling, and I don’t intend to do that.”