As Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain finds himself immersed in allegations of sexual harassment, the government of Greece nears collapse and 14 million Americans are out of work, it’s business as usual on the Senate floor with leaders of both parties taking daily pot shots at each other.
Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, started the day Thursday attacking each other over the pending business of a jobs bill. The Senate has been parceling out portions of President Obama’s jobs legislation that did not pass the chamber on Oct. 11. Reid has been dividing the bill in small pieces in an effort to get legislation passed and says the Republicans are wasting time debating things that will not create jobs. Reid referenced Wednesday’s House-passed bill reiterating the slogan “In God We Trust” as the country’s official slogan.
“I don’t know a single senator that does not believe in God. They (House Republicans) spend time debating that while people are out of — and desperate for — work,” Reid said on the Senate floor.
“My good friend has made a good campaign speech, but the election is in November of next year, not November of this year. If we want to accomplish something, we’ve got to do it together. I wish we could put off the election until next year, and I would urge my friend to join me in looking for things that have enough bipartisan support that we can actually make a law, not just try to make a point.”
Reid bristled at McConnell’s remarks:
“The Republican leader comes before this body today and says we should do our campaign speeches next year, when the world knows he has said the No. 1 priority in this Congress is to defeat President Obama. We have had here for the last 10 months, directed by my friend, a campaign speech every day by his Republican colleagues doing everything they can to make President Obama look bad and doing nothing to help our economy.”
All this comes as national congressional approval ratings dip into the single digits and unemployment holds steady around 9 percent. As expected, the Senate defeated jobs bills from both parties later Thursday.
After the latest defeats in Congress for his jobs bill, President Obama released a statement, reading in part:
“For the third time in recent weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a jobs bill that independent economists said would boost our economy and put Americans back to work. At a time when more than a million construction workers are looking for a job, they voted “no” to putting them back to work doing the work America needs done – rebuilding our roads, bridges, airports and transit systems. That makes no sense.”
Meanwhile, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction continues to meet behind closed doors with a Nov. 23 deadline looming. News leaking out of the secret sessions has not hinted toward a deal being reached, and some reports suggest that both sides seem more polarized than ever.
House Speaker Boehner said the mood among Republicans is nervous.
“I think there is pressure on both sides of the aisle — both on the supercommittee and frankly in leadership also on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers. We have to come to an agreement. It is important for the supercommittee to succeed. If this was easy, these issues would have been dealt with in the last couple of decades. If it were easy, the president and I could have come to an agreement earlier this year. If this was easy, Senator Reid and I could have come to an agreement in July. This is hard and everybody knows it’s hard. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the work of all the members of the committee and their efforts to try to come to an agreement. We’re going to continue to work at this.”
Also Thursday, a collection of 100 House Democrats and Republicans issued a letter to the supercommittee urging them to pursue a big, balanced deal that includes consideration and inclusion of spending cuts, revenues and mandatory spending reform.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she is still optimistic the committee can reach a deal, but the clock is ticking.