Lamar laments broken Senate (some suggest he helped break it)

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee says the U.S. Senate is broken, reports The Tennessean, with a case in point being the recent bill to extend long-term jobless benefits.

Alexander says the stalemate is just the latest symptom of the Senate’s inability to function, a condition he says impedes his ability to represent Tennessee.

“It’s worse than it’s ever been,” Alexander lamented in a recent interview. “And I’ve watched it for a long time.”

Alexander, who has represented the Volunteer State since 2003, still reveres the Senate, where he served as an aide to Tennessee Republican Howard Baker in the 1960s and won confirmation as education secretary in 1991.

But he said recent rule changes and maneuvering by the Democratic majority have rendered Republicans practically impotent in a chamber where thoughtful, bipartisan discourse has long been a cherished virtue.

…Reid points out that roughly half of the 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees “in the history of the Republic” have occurred since Obama took office in 2009. The filibusters were part of a broader GOP effort, Democrats say, to stymie Obama’s agenda after he won a second term in 2012.

…Alexander is just as irked by Reid’s efforts to restrict amendments, as he did on the jobless benefits bill. He also said Reid has the math wrong on which party has been doing the most obstructing.

Data compiled by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service and provided by Alexander’s office shows Reid has restricted floor amendments 79 times since his ascension to majority leader in 2007 through 2013. That’s nearly twice the number compiled by the six previous majority leaders combined.

…Independent observers say Alexander has a valid point in criticizing some Democratic tactics. But they also say Republicans have contributed to the current standoff through constant filibusters and attempts to attach politically charged amendments to unrelated bills.

…Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the nonpartisan American Enterprise Institute, said Alexander’s recent performance has been disappointing. He said that’s particularly true of his support for GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s “unprecedented use of tools of mass obstruction” to gum up Senate business.
Alexander, for example, voted against moving forward with the unemployment benefits bill he wanted to amend.

“Lamar’s been a hero of mine for years, but I tell you, I am down on him right now,” Ornstein said. “He’s been at least as much a part of the problem as a part of the solution.”