Even Republicans Begin to Grow Weary of the Senate’s ‘Legislative Graveyard’

Even Republicans Begin to Grow Weary of the Senate’s ‘Legislative Graveyard’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has been stalwart in his vow to play “grim reaper” to virtually all legislation to emerge from the Democratic-controlled House, even some Senate Republicans are losing patience with McConnell’s near-total obstructionism.

The House has approved some 140 bills since the 116th Congress convened in January, and that number continues to rise. The legislation ranges from improving access to healthcare and gun safety, to election security and more.

However, breaking a pledge he made in 2014, McConnell now refuses to bring any House-approved bills up for consideration in the Senate, apparently in an attempt to deny Democrats any legislative accomplishment.

Borrowing from McConnell’s “grim reaper” metaphor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has taken to calling the Senate a “legislative graveyard.”

However, the strategy has begun to wear thin for at least some Senate Republicans, who would like a chance to work on legislation.

“We have completed almost 25 percent of the time allotted to this current Congress. And what have we done? Other than nominations, which are important … we have done nothing–zero, zilch, nada,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said in remarks on the Senate floor on May 22.

In those same floor remarks, Kennedy added, “I am saying we need to do more.  There are issues where our Democratic friends and my Republican friends have more in common than we don’t. We need to bring the bills to the floor of the Senate. Everyone has their own list, and everyone in the Senate knows what I am talking about, whether they will say it or not.” 

Interviewed that same day on MSNBC about his remarks, Kennedy was asked why he hasn’t rectified his concern over lack of legislating.

“Because I can’t bring a bill to the floor of the Senate. Only the majority leader can,” Kennedy replied.

Amplifying his thoughts further, Kennedy was quoted on Monday by Politico, saying, “We ought to be less risk-averse. And I don’t think I’m the only one who believes that. I just think I’m just the only one foolish enough to say that.” 

Kennedy is not the only GOP member to feel this way.

The Hill on May 24 reported: “Asked how he felt about the pace of legislation in the Senate this year, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) shot back: ‘What legislation?’ ‘So it’s pretty slow, isn’t it?’ he asked.” 

Politico this week quoted other frustrated Republicans speaking out, as well, including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“I appreciate the fact that we have to do the personnel side of the business,” Murkowski said. ‘But as one that wants to get to the policy, I’d like us to be moving on some of these pieces of legislation.”

Potentially vulnerable senators in next year’s elections, such as Sen. Cory Gardner, also told Politico that they’re speaking up.

Politico reported: “Gardner said he had encouraged McConnell ‘to vote on more things, to have more debates.’”

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