Senate Republicans are officially furious at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The GOP on Thursday blocked a popular and bipartisan tax cut bill in protest over a longstanding Democratic policy of denying GOP amendments.
A package of more than 50 tax breaks needed 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle, but Republicans refused to back the legislation, even though the bill was written by both parties and enjoyed wide bipartisan backing. The measure fell short by seven votes.
“I think a message was sent today,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said after lawmakers blocked the bill. “We don't like the way the Senate is being run today. We don't think it's fair, we don't think it's right. It had nothing to do with policy. It had to do with how we proceed.”
Reid for months has blocked GOP amendments to legislation, saying that the GOP wants to tack on provisions that have nothing to do with the legislation or are meant to put Democrats in a difficult position.
Reid further infuriated the GOP by changing the Senate rules so that only a simple majority, not the traditional 60 votes, are needed to confirm all executive and judicial branch nominations.
Republican anger has been simmering for months over their shrinking power in the chamber, but it reached a boiling point Thursday.
In this instance, the GOP was hoping to amend the tax legislation with a provision to repeal the unpopular medical device tax that is included in the new health care law. Some GOP lawmakers also wanted amendments that would make some of the tax cuts permanent, rather than extending them for only two years.
But Reid used a procedural move to block all their amendments.
“The American people need to know what's happening to their Senate,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “Instead of preserving the Senate's prerogatives, they've systemically weakened or destroyed them. They've turned the Senate into a graveyard of good ideas, and open, Democratic debate.”
It’s the second time in as many weeks that Republicans have refused to vote for legislation because they were denied amendments by Reid.
But unlike previous legislation, the tax bill is considered a must-pass bill because both parties believe it will boost the struggling economy help small businesses create needed jobs.
The tax cuts expired Dec. 31, leaving many businesses unable to plan or expand.
“I would hope that come November, the American people will just say no to this gridlock we have in Washington in the United States Senate,” Reid said after the vote.
Both sides appear eager to resuscitate the tax bill and will likely work behind the scenes on an amendment deal, which would be a small victory for Republicans.
“Show us your amendments, we'll show you our amendments,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “Let them be relevant and germane, and we will be very reasonable and accommodating.”
Democrats, however, are unlikely to permit an amendment that would strike the medical device tax, which is expected to raise $29 billion in the first decade, which will be used to fund Obamacare.
The vote would be politically dangerous for Democrats, particularly vulnerable lawmakers running in competitive re-election races in states where Obamacare is unpopular.