The split control of Congress produced by the November 2010 elections left some conservatives concerned that Republican senators would be less likely to stand firm on key issues than their counterparts in the incoming majority GOP House of Representatives.
Part of this is process driven. Individual senators have much more power, especially on the Senate floor, than individual House members. That, coupled with the fact that the Senate is allegedly more collegial than the House, sometimes leads to oddly bipartisan coalitions that push issues that might better be left to the political back burners.
Right now, the major issues before Congress are providing the money needed to keep the government running and whether or not to extend any or all of the current tax rates, something that many Democrats are loath to do.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the entire Senate GOP conference—which now numbers 42 members, one more than is needed to sustain a filibuster—indicate they would oppose doing any Senate business until these two critical issues are addressed.
“The nation’s unemployment level, stuck near 10 percent, is unacceptable to Americans,” the letter begins. “Senate Republicans have been urging Congress to make private-sector job creation a priority all year. President Obama in his first speech after the November election said ‘we owe’ it to the American people to ‘focus on those issues that affect their jobs.’ He went on to say that Americans ‘want jobs to come back faster.’ Our constituents have repeatedly asked us to focus on creating an environment for private-sector job growth; it is time that our constituents’ priorities become the Senate’s priorities.”
“For that reason,” they say, they will “not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.”
Politically what that means is the Senate GOP is holding firm against the Obama tax hikes by threatening to shut down all the Senate’s business until this issue, along with the need to keep the government running is taken care of. [See a slide show of the GOP's rising stars.]
The news was not well received by Reid who, on the Senate floor, called the letter an example of the GOP unwillingness to work “on critical matters, then blaming the Democrats for not addressing the need of the American people.”
In reality it means that the more moderate GOP Senate Conference heard the same message from the American electorate that the incoming House majority believes it sent. The message from that election is that the problems in Washington are too much spending and too much job-killing regulation not under taxation. Inside the beltway, that’s what’s called “a game changer.”