WASHINGTON — The Senate ended last week on a bitter note as Democrats revised long-standing procedural rules in a dispute with Republicans over amendments to a China trade bill.
The Senate spent most of the week debating a bill that would pressure the Obama administration to slap tariffs on Chinese imports. China has been accused of unfairly manipulating its currency at the expense of American manufacturers.
Republicans proposed a series of amendments that Democrats saw as attempts to delay the bill at the last minute.
Democratic leaders including Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., already were frustrated over what they saw as GOP efforts to show them up over President Barack Obama’s jobs legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was seeking a floor vote on the Obama bill before Democrats were ready to move it forward.
At that point, Reid engineered a procedure that effectively blocked the Republicans, a move seen as altering a long-standing Senate policy that protects the voice of the minority party in floor debates.
“What just took place is an effort to try to expedite what goes on around here,” Reid said. “There has to be some end to these dilatory tactics to stop things.”
“This is a free-wheeling body,” McConnell countered. “And, the country is better off to have at least one place where there is extended debate.”
The key vote came on whether to uphold Reid’s action. The Democratic majority prevailed, 51-48. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against Reid’s action.
HOUSE BATTLES OVER EPA REGULATIONS
The House debated two bills aimed at blocking pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations to limit toxic pollution from cement factories and industrial boilers.
Republicans argued the regulations pose too high an economic cost on companies.
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., who introduced the bill to delay the cement rule, said that EPA “has gone rogue” and it is up to Congress to rein in overregulation.
Most House Democrats favored the EPA rules, saying that environmental and health benefits should not be sacrificed for corporate profit.
Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said similar complaints were raised when the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1990. The economy went on to add 21 million jobs and drastically reduced air pollution, she said.
The House voted 262-161 to delay the EPA cement rule. Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Mark Amodei, R-Nev., voted for the delay.
A final vote on the boiler regulation was pending.
During debate the House rejected a Democratic amendment to instruct EPA to move forward on efforts to reduce emissions from industrial boilers.
The amendment failed, 167-243. Berkley voted for the amendment. Amodei and Heck voted against it.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 202-783-1760.