UPDATE: (17th March 2015) This new Washington Post story echoes much of what I have written below – I got there first! 🙂 http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-a-seemingly-innocuous-bill-senate-manages-to-tie-itself-in-knots/2015/03/16/8bd62ca2-cc08-11e4-8a46-b1dc9be5a8ff_story.html
Since the 114th Congress took over, Washington DC has experienced a good number of dysfunctional moments – DHS funding, Loretta Lynch nomination, Keystone Veto, ‘that’ Iran letter…most of these have been the butting heads of the President and the Republican-controlled Congress.
This recent dysfunction, however, exists within Congress: Harry Reid’s blocking of the Human Trafficking Bill unless abortion language was stripped out of it has led to retaliation from Mitch McConnell who continues his block on the Loretta Lynch nomination and has said he will continue to do so until Reid gives in. This is interesting in a number of senses.
Firstly, it underlines the individual power within the Senate rather than reliance on collective power as exists in the HoR. The idea of ‘unanimous consent’ allows individuals such as this to hold the whole process hostage.
Equally, it demonstrates some of the power of the leadership in the Senate. Especially important here is that, usually, the Minority Leader would be considered to have little legislative power. However, as the Minority Leader is the political powerhouse that is Harry Reid, he seems reluctant to take the new Republican control lying down. It seems unlikely that these two are going to find a huge amount of common ground any time soon.
It also demonstrates the difficulties of the confirmation process that a President can face, even when his candidate is suitable in all other manners.
Nonetheless, with two years of bitter partisan fighting looking like it might become the norm, this level of dysfunction seems unlikely to subside in the near future.