Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) tried to rally Democrats against a “gag rule” imposed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that stifles not only GOP amendments, but ones from the leader’s own party as well.
Alexander sounded off at an appropriations committee meeting Thursday morning after the Energy and Water appropriations bill was dropped from the agenda because, he said, Democrats were “afraid amendments would be offered that would not produce the result that they wanted.”
Reid’s gag rule that has thwarted the ability of lawmakers “to have a say on behalf of the people we’re elected to represent.” has “moved from the Senate floor to the committee room,” Alexander charged.
“There have been 810 Republican amendments offered since last July on the floor of the Senate, and there have been roll call votes on only 9 … There have been nearly 700 Democrat amendments offered and you’ve gotten 7 votes,” Alexander said. “Now my question is, why would you put up with that?”
“Since last July, you’ve gotten 7 votes on the floor of the Senate because of the imposition of the gag rule by the Majority Leader, which said you can’t have a vote on Benghazi, Iran, on this or that, because it doesn’t fit what somebody thinks the result ought to be.”
That was a reference to the movement in the Senate to place additional sanctions on Iran, which could have attained a veto-proof majority in the upper chamber but Reid squashed at the insistence of the White House.
Last week, Alexander noted, he was prepared to offer four amendments on the Labor Health Appropriations bill. “They were relevant amendments, they were germane, they were important. One was about the college rating system, one was about NLRB, one was about No Child Left Behind, and one was about more disclosure on Obamacare. I understand the Labor Health Appropriations bill was canceled because we didn’t want amendments,” he said. “And then when the senator from California called to tell me that we would not be debating our bill today, I was so disappointed because it seems to me that the only reason for that is that there might be amendments that might come out in a way that the Democratic leadership doesn’t want it to come out.”
“Well, that happens all the time in the United States Senate. We still have to go to the floor. We still have to go to conference. We still have a president who can veto whatever he wants. So, I hope we get back to the idea that we should debate big issues until we get a consensus.”
The outrage over the “gag rule” has been brewing for some time.
“What happens when half of the Senate is shut down and denied an opportunity to participate in the legislative process?” Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on the Senate floor last month.
“We are denied an opportunity to represent the people that elected us to office…we are given the responsibility and the privilege of representing them here in this place, and we cannot do it when the Majority Leader runs this like a dictator,” Cornyn said. “In essence the Majority Leader has imposed a gag rule on the Minority in the United States Senate – a gag rule in the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
“Well, we’re not going to just shut up. We’re not going to just sit down and shut up.”