Not much middle ground. On NBC, McConnell and Reid on different pages on Senate rules, immigration

07/14/2013 08:41 AM

Amid rock-bottom congressional job approval numbers, the party leaders of the U.S. Senate didn’t exactly lay out many areas in which they could agree during separate appearances on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Kentucky’s senior Sen. Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader, remain on opposite sides of whether to change the Senate rules to make it more difficult for the minority party to use the filibuster to delay or block presidential appointments to the cabinet.

Democrats have threatened to eliminate the filibuster on executive nominations as a “nuclear option” unless Republicans back off of opposition to so many of Obama’s appointees.

“Shouldn’t President Obama have people working for him that he wants?” Reid asked rhetorically.

Reid quoted the figures that 15 of Obama’s nominees to executive branch posts have been filibustered compared to 20 appointments of all previous presidents combined.

McConnell countered that Obama’s nominations have gotten through the process faster than President George W. Bush’s cabinet nominees, on average.

“What is the problem here? The president has had 1,540 of his appointees confirmed … and four defeated,” McConnell said.

However, the Obama administration has 184 pending executive nominations and has seen 34 approved so far in the president’s second term as compared to 118 of Bush’s executive nominees confirmed by the Senate at the same point in his second term, as a recent article from Salon pointed out.

U.S. Senators are scheduled to meet Monday evening in the Old Senate Chambers in Washington for a summit of sorts on Senate procedure and other issues.

McConnell did back off one of the statements he made on the Senate floor last week, saying that Reid would be “remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever.”

McConnell told host David Gregory that Reid wouldn’t be remembered that way if he pulls back on Senate filibuster reform.

“He’s a reasonable man. He’s a good majority leader,” McConnell said of Reid.

Immigration reform

Both McConnell and Reid said they hoped Congress could agree on some type of immigration reform.

But getting there remains the trick.

McConnell voted against the Senate’s version of the bill, which passed last month. More than the path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, McConnell told Gregory that the more difficult provision would be to outline measures to secure the U.S. border to make it less likely that more people can illegally enter the United States.

“The stickiest issue is border security,” McConnell said, adding that he expected the Republican-controlled House to deal with it in a separate bill.

Reid, however, said he wants Republican House Speaker John Boehner to just “let the House vote” on the Senate’s bill.


Gregory asked Reid if he would consider a measure to ban late-term abortions after 20 weeks.

Reid initially deflected, then said he would be willing to take a look at it. Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has said he plans to introduce such a measure, as the Weekly Standard reported.

But Reid said his top priorities are to deal with more sweeping issues and “stop worrying about fringe issues.”

Tax Reform

McConnell said he’s willing to take up a measure to revamp the federal tax code by lowering rates and spreading out the base as long as it’s revenue neutral.


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