As the new year began in Congress this week, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered a lengthy address to his colleagues on the Senate Floor about the state of the Senate following its “nuclear meltdown” late last year, and how to renew it.
Senator McConnell noted that debate over ideological divides in the institution of the Senate have served to strengthen this nation over the years through turbulent times:
[T]he fact is, every serious student of this institution, from de Tocqueville to our late colleague Robert Byrd, has seen the Senate as uniquely important to America’s stability and flourishing. In their view, it’s made all the difference. And here’s why — because whether it was the fierce early battles over the shape and scope of the federal government, or those that surrounded industrialization, or those that preceded and followed a nation-rending Civil War, or those surrounding the great wars of the 20th Century, or the expansion of the franchise, or a decades-long Cold War, or the War on Terror, we have almost always found a way forward, sometimes haltingly, but always steadily. And the Senate is the tool that has enabled us to find our footing almost every time.
Calling committees a “school of bipartisanship” as legislation works through them, Senator McConnell proposed that committees be given more power back to shape law, rather than major bills being drafted “in the Majority Leader’s conference room and then dropped on the floor with little or no opportunity for members to participate in the amendment process, virtually guaranteeing a fight.” He also called for a renewed open amendment process and a more robust Senate work week.
Highlighting the Senate rebuilding efforts of former Senator Mike Mansfield after the heavy-handed years of Lyndon Johnson as Senate Majority Leader, Senator McConnell concluded, “Both sides will have to work to get us back to where we should be. It won’t happen overnight. We’re all out of practice. But it’s a goal that I truly believe we can all agree on and agree to strive toward together. Because restoring this institution is the only way we’ll ever solve the challenges we face. That’s the lesson of history and experience. And we would all be wise to heed it.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) countered that Senator McConnell’s complaints were “a distraction, a diversion, a phony process argument to steal attention away from their unconscionable stand on the issues that matter most to the middle class.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: January 10, 2014