In keeping with their five-year track record of unprecedented gridlock and obstruction, Senate Republicans led by Senator McConnell are blocking dozens upon dozens of amendment votes even as they pay lip service to wanting to see more votes on the floor. In the past year and a half alone, Senate Republicans have blocked more than 73 amendment votes from taking place on the floor. 
- 36 votes on Republican amendments blocked by Senate Republicans
- 31 votes on Democratic amendments blocked by Senate Republicans
- 6 votes on bipartisan amendments blocked by Senate Republicans
Senator McConnell, the self-declared “proud guardian of gridlock,” has personally blocked 20 amendment votes in the 113th Congress alone.
Senator Grassley has personally blocked the most amendment votes of any Republican senator, blocking 37 amendment votes in the 113th Congress alone.
These numbers beg the question: if Republicans claim to want amendment votes, why would they block more than 73 amendment votes in the past year?
Is it possible that Senator McConnell would manufacture an issue out of thin air in order to distract from his own unprecedented track record of gridlock and obstruction?
There was an instructive exchange on the Senate floor yesterday between Senators Reid, McConnell and Thune that might help answer these questions.
YESTERDAY: MCCONNELL BLOCKS VOTE ON KEYSTONE DESPITE REPEATEDLY DEMANDING VOTE ON KEYSTONE
Senator McConnell has been demanding a vote on the Keystone pipeline for months. Yesterday, Senator Reid took to the floor to offer to vote on the Keystone pipeline immediately, along with a vote on the bipartisan Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill.
In other words, Senator Reid offered to hold immediate votes on two bipartisan bills: the Keystone bill which Senator McConnell has been clamoring to vote on for months, along with a bill that is a priority for both Democrats and Republicans.
Yet despite his repeated pleas for votes, Senator McConnell rejected the terms of the agreement, marking the third time Senate Republicans have rejected a vote on Keystone.
The terms of the agreement may not have been exactly what Senator McConnell wanted, but that is the nature of compromise. Clearly, Senator McConnell is less interested in actually voting than in manufacturing a lame distraction from his own unprecedented record of gridlock and obstruction.
Other “lowlight” examples of Senate Republicans obstructing the votes they claim to desire include:
- Republican Senators blocking votes proposed by other Republican senators. For example, Senator Vitter blocked a vote on Senator Inhofe’s bipartisan amendment on renewable energy purchases in order to demand a vote on his own highly partisan Obamacare amendment. In fact, Senator Vitter blocked votes on any other amendments in order to demand a vote on his own amendment.
- Ever-shifting rationales on whether, when and why 60-vote thresholds are acceptable or not. For example: last week, Senator Alexander argued that 60 vote thresholds were appropriate for controversial amendments, while Senator McConnell demanded a majority threshold on his controversial EPA amendment.
- What Senator McCain himself described as “pure obstructionism.” Senator McCain accused his Republican colleagues of “pure obstructionism” while criticizing them on the floor for blocking amendments to the comprehensive immigration bill.
The end result is the same: in an ongoing and brazen display of hypocrisy, Republicans have blocked 73 amendment votes even as they continue to claim they want to see more votes.
This is unprecedented obstruction, pure and simple.
Senate rules are designed to work by consent and give the minority the power to block agreements to set up floor votes with a single senator’s objection. Because of these rules, each senator has the power to stop or indefinitely delay a vote on any piece of legislation absent a unanimous consent agreement.
In the past, the minority worked with the majority to come to agreements on a reasonable number of amendments in the course of debating and eventually voting on legislation. Unfortunately, today’s Senate Republicans would rather constantly pick fights and manufacture crises than work cooperatively across the aisle with Democrats to get things done and deliver results for the middle class.
Note that procedurally, objections can be overcome by filing cloture. But this is a time-consuming process that takes about a week to produce a final passage vote on a given piece of legislation. For instance, using the cloture process, it would take Senator Reid approximately a year and a half of consecutive work days to produce final passage votes on the 73 votes blocked by Republicans.
Amendment Votes Blocked by Republicans in the 113th Congress
March 18, 2013: Sen. Ayotte (R-NH) objected to votes on 8 Republican amendments. Sen. Moran said he also would have objected. [Floor Activity, 3/18/13]
- Coburn #69 (prohibit Urban Area Security Initiative Grants not improving homeland security);
- Coburn #93 (transfer funds from National Heritage Partnership Program to fund White House public tours and maintenance at public parks/monuments);
- Coburn #65, as modified with the changes that are at the desk (National Science Foundation funding);
- Coburn #70, as modified with the changes that are at the desk (authorizing committees receive information from Homeland Security);
- Inhofe #72, as modified with changes that are at the desk (require Secretaries of Military Departments to carry out tuition assistance programs);
- Grassley #76, as modified with changes that are at the desk (report illegal aliens released due to budget constraints);
- Mikulski-Shelby #98 (technical corrections); and
- Leahy #129, as modified with changes that are at the desk (to revise language regarding cluster munitions); and
- Pryor-Blunt #82 (poultry inspections).
June 4, 2013: Sen. Toomey objected to calling up 3 Republican amendments. [Floor Activity, 6/4/13]
- Landrieu #1113 (flood insurance)
- Johnson SD-Crapo #1117 (flood insurance)
- Cardin #1159 (side by side to Grassley #1097) and
- Grassley #1097 (protect information of livestock producers)
June 12, 2013: Sen. Grassley (R-IA) objected to votes on two Republican amendments. [Floor Activity, 6/12/13]
- Grassley #1195 (border security);
- Thune #1197 (permanent resident status after border completion);
- Vitter #1228 (biometric check in system);
- Landrieu #1222 (adoption); and
- Tester #1198 (modify Border Oversight Task Force to include tribal government officials).
June 26, 2013: Sen. Grassley objected to votes on 18 Republican amendments. [Floor Activity, 6/26/13]
- Sessions #1334;
- Hirono #1718;
- Fischer #1594;
- Blumenthal #1636;
- Vitter #1445;
- Brown #1311;
- Toomey #1599;
- Hagan #1386;
- Coats #1563;
- McCaskill #1457;
- Johnson (WI) #1380;
- Boxer #1260;
- Cruz #1580;
- Feinstein #1250;
- Lee #1214;
- Udall (NM) #1218;
- Vitter #1577;
- Tester #1459;
- Vitter #1474;
- Heitkamp #1593;
- Lee #1207;
- Whitehouse #1419;
- Cruz #1579;
- Udall (NM) #1691;
- Cruz #1583;
- Heinrich #1342;
- Cruz #1585;
- Reed (RI) #1608;
- Cruz #1586;
- Nelson-Wicker #1253;
- McCain-Cardin #1469; and
- Portman-Tester #1634.
November 18, 2013: Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) objected to votes on a Republican Guantanamo amendment and two bipartisan sexual assault amendments [Floor Activity, 11/18/13]
- Republican Leader, or designees (Guantanamo)
- Democratic side-by-side (Guantanamo)
- Gillibrand, or designee (sexual assault)
- McCaskill-Ayotte (sexual assault)
January 14, 2014: Sen. McConnell objected to votes on up to 20 amendments. [Floor Activity, 1/14/14]
Prior to the vote, Senator Reid asked consent to vitiate cloture and consider the bill under certain parameters including the consideration of a new Reed substitute, 5 additional amendments on each side, and passage of H.R.2009, as amended by the Unemployment Insurance Extension language. Senator McConnell objected and asked that it be in order to consider amendments in an alternating fashion indefinitely. Senator Reid objected to McConnell’s request.
June 19, 2014: Sen. McConnell objected to any amendments. [Floor Activity, 6/19/14]
Senator Reid asked unanimous consent that the post-cloture time on the motion to proceed be considered expired, that the Senate proceed to vote on adoption of the motion to proceed and if the motion is agreed to, Senator Mikulski, or her designee, be recognized to offer the substitute amendment #3244, which consists of:
- the text of Calendar #411, S.2437, as Division A (Senate-reported CJS Appropriations bill),
- the text of Calendar #412, S.2438, as Division B (Senate-reported THUD Appropriations bill), and
- the text of Calendar #390, S.2389, as Division C (Senate-reported Agriculture Appropriations bill);
further, that for the consideration of Division B, Calendar #430, H.R.4745(House-passed THUD Appropriations bill), and for the consideration of Division C, H.R.4800, as reported by the House Committee on Appropriations (Agriculture bill), be deemed House-passed text in H.R.4660 for purposes of rule 16 and that the substitute amendment offered by Senator Mikulski, or her designee, be considered a committee amendment for the purposes of paragraph 1 of rule 16 and all amendments or motions to commit be subject to a 60 affirmative vote threshold.