GOP says it'll block bills until tax cuts extended

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans threatened Wednesday to block virtually all legislation until expiring tax cuts are extended and a bill is passed to fund the federal government, vastly complicating Democratic attempts to leave their own stamp on the final days of the post-election Congress.

Harry Reid
Manuel Balce Ceneta

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nev. gestures during a news conference on Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

"While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate's attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike," all 42 GOP senators wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The 42 signatures are more than enough to block action on almost any item he wishes to advance.

The threat does not apply to a new arms control treaty with Russia that is pending, since it would be debated under rules that differ from those that apply to routine legislation. President Barack Obama has made ratification of the pact a top priority.

But it does threaten Democratic attempts to lift the Pentagon's ban on openly gay members of the military, and a separate item to give legal status to young illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military. The tax and spending bills are likely to be the last to pass before Congress adjourns for the year.

"Republicans have pleaded with Democrats to put aside their wish-list to focus on the things Americans want us to focus on. They've ignored us. The voters repudiated their agenda at the polls. They've ignored them. Time is running out. They're ignoring that," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in remarks on the Senate floor. "The election was a month ago. It's time to get serious. It's time to focus on priorities."

McConnell and Reid were expected to discuss the legislative agenda later in the morning in a meeting that was previously scheduled.

The Democratic to-do list also includes extending the expiring tax cuts — although they and Republicans differ on particulars, as well as a measure to keep the government in operation. But the rest of their agenda marks an attempt to court voters Democrats need in 2012 to recapture the majority.

Call it lame-duck politics.

Take the so-called Dream Act, a measure to give young people whose parents brought them into the United States illegally before they were 16 a path to legal status by going to college or joining the armed forces.

The measure has enjoyed some degree of bipartisan support in the past, and Reid, the majority leader, vowed last month — in the thick of his tough re-election fight in heavily Hispanic Nevada — to hold a vote on it when Congress returned to finish its end-of-the-year business. He said Tuesday he'd move to overcome GOP objections and force a test vote, although it's unclear when one will occur.

Hispanic voters also played a major role in sparing other Democrats — including Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Barbara Boxer of California — from being toppled by a GOP wave.

"There was a firewall in the West where Latino voters turned out in big numbers to reward people who championed them," said Frank Sharry of America's Voice, an immigrant advocacy group. "We're going to try to make it painful" for those who oppose efforts to give illegal immigrants a path to legal status, he added.

Most Republicans vehemently oppose the Dream Act, saying it amounts to amnesty.

Hispanic groups have pushed hard for the legislation, which targets the most sympathetic of the millions of undocumented people — those brought to the United States as children, who in many cases consider themselves American, speak English and have no ties to or family living in their native countries.

Miffed that Obama has not done more to press for a broad immigration overhaul to give undocumented people a path to legal status, the groups say the least Democrats can do is push through the more limited bill for young people.

Republicans decry the strategy of acting on such issues during the lame-duck session, accusing Democrats of playing politics and ignoring the message voters sent Nov. 2.

But Democrats also face pressure from their left flank.

Gay-rights groups have criticized Reid for not pushing hard enough to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy against openly gay soldiers, as the House has already voted to do.

Reid has promised to hold a Senate vote on the matter before year's end, after hearings can be held later this week on a Pentagon report on the impact that openly serving gays would have on the military.

Republicans say they need to examine the report, which was issued Tuesday, before acting. It concluded that getting rid of the policy might cause some disruption at first but wouldn't create widespread or long-lasting problems.

Obama seized on the conclusion to call on the Senate to act "as soon as possible" to repeal the ban, "so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally."

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Comments

 's picture

Rich

Since when does $200k make you super rich? Since when does $200k make you a "millionaire"??

The folks who have controlled EVERYTHING for the last two years keep calling this a tax cut for the millionaires. However there are two big things wrong with the position. First, a $200k makes no one a millionaire. Second, this is not a tax cut, it is a tax increase from our current tax rate. A tax cut would go DOWN from the current rate.

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

Unfortunately the Democrats

Unfortunately the Democrats like to encourage class and race separation in this country. That is not the American way. I do not care if the Democrats use a $250,000 or a million dollar threshhold I do not come close to earning either amount, but I am still against discriminating in such a way against those peoploe who happen to be fortunate enough to earn such a salary. This is divisional politics at its worst. Those high earners already shoulder a higher tax burden than most of us, why discriminate against them? Why make them villains? All the government does when it sets discriminately unfair rules as this is encourage people to come up with ways to get around them. If tax cuts are good for us they are also good for all! Hopefully the last of these dividing people will get kicked out at the next election.

Tony Morin's picture

Video footage?

Did anyone see any video footage from Washington today? Were the Republicans crossing their arms and stomping their feet?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That's what you do when you

That's what you do when you have the majority; KICK ASS.
Get used to it, boys. It gets better.

Mark Wrenn's picture

of what?

Majority of what? The house? Big deal.

Mark Wrenn's picture

term

I may be wrong here, but aren't representatives elected for two year terms? And when does that term end? And why are so many teahadists enamored with the thoughts of things going down their "throughts"?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

They just can't get it

They just can't get it through their thick heads that they are no longer in charge.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That's right; NO TO NONSENSE

That's right; NO TO NONSENSE from the democRATS.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Hypocrisy on parade.

They put us $6 trillion in debt in 8 years; now they claim they are fiscal conservatives?
They claim they represent Americans and they do - 2% percent of them.
They don't represent the 8.4 million people who lost their jobs in their recession (started in 2007 remember).
They certainly don't represent the unemployed when they extort $700 billion more in debt for the rich but not one penny more to those people who's jobs were lost because of their policies.

Mark Wrenn's picture

oh, that's an easy one!

Millionaires deserve their average $103,000 annual tax cut so they can keep creating those massive amounts of jobs the Bush tax cuts generated in China, and they don't need to be offset. But the guy that lost his job through no fault of his own that relies on his average $290 a week unemployment check to help feed and house his family, well he's just a deadbeat. You have to keep punishing the most vulnerable in order for the ultra rich to prosper.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Question Jon: How did so many

Question Jon:
How did so many dems get kicked out of office if so many of the voters were happy with their performance?
And who's policies are you referring to, Jon? oBAMa's had the reins for almost two years, now. When does he get to take ownership of the current situation? I already know the answer, but I'd be interested in reading yours.

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