Senate Republicans block tax bill in tiff over amendments

William Douglas

Senate Republicans blocked a bill to renew a package of expiring business tax breaks Thursday in an acrimonious vote that turned into a Republican revolt over their inability to offer amendments to the bill.

On a 53-40 vote senators failed to proceed on the tax package written by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The measure required 60 votes to proceed. Only Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Il., was the only Republican who voted with Democrats.

The bill had bipartisan support moving out of the finance committee and senators voted 96-3 on Tuesday to open debate on it. But Republicans blocked it Thursday because they said Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wouldn’t let them have amendments.

‘We have a Democratic majority that’s turned this body on its head,’ said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. ‘Instead of preserving the Senate prerogatives, they’ve systemically weakened or destroyed them. They’ve turned the Senate into a graveyard of good ideas, and open, democratic debate.’

Reid angrily denounced Republicans, particularly McConnell, after the vote. He said Republicans wanted to offer amendments to repeal the medical device tax provision that helps fund the Affordable Care Act and remove a tax credit for wind energy production. When Reid filed for the vote, known as cloture, he used a Senate procedure called ‘filling the tree’ that prevented Republicans from bringing up amendments.

‘My friend, the Republican leader, calls himself the ‘Guardian of Gridlock,’ the ‘Guardian of Gridlock,’’ Reid sarcastically said of McConnell. ‘I’m not going to do a thing to take away that name he loves so much because it’s true. We’ll have the weekend to think about this, I guess. I think it’s irrational to block these tax cuts.’

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the finance committee’s ranking Republican, said he and Wyden will attempt to repair the bitter feelings surrounding Thursday’s vote and attempt to get the tax bill passed.

‘But it’s going to have to be fair and Republicans are going to have to have a fair shot of having some amendments here,’ Hatch said on the Senate floor. ‘This is a bill that, hopefully, when the House passes their bill, we can get together in a conference and work it out like big boys and girls should.’

By William Douglas
McClatchy Washington Bureau