In January, trying to get the 2012 congressional session off on the right foot, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada downplayed friction between the two political parties.
“I know that my friend, Mitch McConnell, has said his number one issue in this next Congress is to get rid of (President) Obama. I don’t think he really means that," Reid said of the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky.
"I feel comfortable with my relationship with McConnell and the Republican caucus that we can get some good things done," Reid said.
Fast forward to the present, where the latest in a series of impasses over the Democrats’ once-hopeful jobs agenda led a frustrated Reid on Tuesday to bury his comments from the earlier time.
Congress has not completed a small business technology bill, a Federal Aviation Administration bill, or a patent reform bill. Reid blames Republicans in the Senate and in the House for blocking or stalling the initiatives.
For their part, Republicans say "big government" approaches by the Democrats aren’t working. Individual bills also have gotten mired in disputes over amendments and procedures.
The latest hitch is over a bill to reauthorize the Economic Development Administration, an agency created in 1965 to distribute grants and loans to distressed communities.
While traditionally a bipartisan bill, in the current charged atmosphere — economically and politically — Republicans are objecting to it, saying it amounts to unwarranted subsidies of local government and businesses, and an invitation for pork barrel spending.
Republicans are calling for the Senate to take up trade bills first with Colombia, South Korea and Panama
"They’re talking in circles," Reid complained today to reporters.
Reid suggested he may have had it wrong back in January.
"I think (Republicans) are fulfilling the wish of the Republican leader. He said his number one goal is to do everything he can to focus on …. Obama not being reelected.
Now, I think that that’s obvious from the floor that that’s their number one issue," Reid said. "Rather than doing something to create jobs, focus on energy and all these other things, they’re focused on one thing: next year’s election."
McConnell this morning said Obama and congressional Democrats have their priorities wrong amidst signs the economy continues to stumble.
"For many there is the nagging feeling that things will actually get worse before they get better, and who can blame them," McConnell said
"We need to change course, and a good place to start is with trade," McConnell said. "The president himself has explicitly acknowledged that free trade agreements will create tens of thousands of jobs for American families who need them."
"Yet now the president’s advisers say the president plans to hold off on this bipartisan job-creating initiative unless it can spend more money on a government benefits program first."
“At a time when 14 million Americans are looking for work, they actually want to hold off on these known job-creating agreements in exchange for a green light to spend more money,” McConnell said.
Republicans "are more interested in jobs in Colombia, Korea and Panama than they are here in the United States," Reid said in response later in the day.
Reid said Democrats will continue to press their agenda. "We are going to continue to focus attention on this," he said. "That is very clear."