GOP Senators Stall For Time As Elections Near With hopes for big gains in this year's midterm elections, Senate Republicans appear to have settled on a strategy of both running out the clock and forcing votes that put vulnerable Democrats in a tight spot.
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GOP Senators Stall For Time As Elections Near

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GOP Senators Stall For Time As Elections Near

GOP Senators Stall For Time As Elections Near

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

As NPR's David Welna reports, the closer the polarized Senate gets to November's elections, the harder it's been for Democrats to move a pile of unfinished business.

DAVID WELNA: Thirty-one House Republicans joined 241 Democrats in giving final passage to the long-stalled unemployment bill. Right before the vote, majority leader Steny Hoyer deplored how the GOP had tied up the bill so long in the Senate, where only two Republicans voted for the measure.

STENY HOYER: Millions of people had lost their unemployment insurance because we could not get 60 votes in the Senate. Had almost every Democrat saying, we need help now.

WELNA: Even after Senate Democrats mustered a 60-vote supermajority and broke the filibuster, Republicans insisted on dragging out the debate one more day before allowing a final vote. Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse vented his frustration on the Senate floor.

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: And time will just tick, tick, tick, tick past with nothing being accomplished here. We could be working on jobs legislation. We sure need that. But the side of this chamber that has the strategy to prevent anything from getting done, whose policy is no, no matter what the question is, that's their answer.

WELNA: This afternoon, Senate Democrats decided it was just not feasible to bring up an energy bill that also addressed global warming. They instead turned to passing a long-stalled bill that would extend tax credits and loans to small business in hopes of creating more jobs. Only one Republican, Florida freshman George LeMieux, is saying he'll back the bill.

GEORGE LEMIEUX: And the money is going to small businesses, people who are really being impacted by this recession. The money gets paid back, it's deficit neutral. I think it's a good thing.

WELNA: Still, LeMieux says even he can't promise to oppose a GOP filibuster of the very measure he's co-sponsoring. He says his Republican colleagues should be able to offer amendments to the bill. Democrats say such amendments are only meant to slow the measure down. Utah Republican Bob Bennett doesn't disagree.

BOB BENNETT: We Republicans who do not have a voice in what goes into the bill do have a voice in saying slow down, and I think we are saying it.

WELNA: Are Senate Republicans simply trying to run out the clock? That could be. Texas Senator John Cornyn leads the effort to replace Democrats with Republicans in November's midterm elections.

JOHN CORNYN: I'm not for passing anymore bad legislation. And anything I can do to stop bad legislation I'm happy to do until the cavalry arrives in November, hopefully.

SARAH BINDER: It's Republicans realizing the midterms are drawing nearer, that Democratic numbers don't look great, that control of the Senate could be in reach.

WELNA: Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution says Senate Republicans are betting on voters being fed up with Democrats in November.

BINDER: Thus it makes sense for them to do whatever they can to block Democrats from, in part, trying to improve the economy, since ultimately the midterm elections are going to rise or fall on what happens with the economy between now and then.

WELNA: Before leaving for their August break, Senate Democrats hope to pass jobs legislation, a stalled war funding bill, and confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden says all that could prove a tall order.

RON WYDEN: For those who want to obstruct, you know, the business of the Senate, this time is paradise.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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