If you are a watcher of federal lawmakers, you may have noticed that the United States Senate has been slow to vote on and move bills through the legislation process. While the House of Representative members duke it out over the budget bills, appropriations measures, and other controversial legislation, the members of the Senate have been coasting. They have made not any controversial votes four months into the session. Politico reported that by early May, the Senate had only held 70 roll-call votes, the lowest level through this point in the year since 1997, and all were noncontroversial nominations.
Could it be by design?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is playing it safe, securing the 23 seats up for reelection next year by not putting any contentious bills up for vote. However, when it matters politically, there is movement Last week, the Senate saved the fate of Medicare by voting down the controversial Rep. Paul Ryan budget bill which would have turned Medicare into a voucher system.
The Senate has been able to stay under the radar. Traditionally, that chamber of Congress is perceived as being more prestigious — its members serve 6 year terms to the House’s 2. Besides that, it is known for being more stately and for avoiding on-the-floor bickering and public jostling over issues, as the House members frequently do.
“It’s less [productive] than I’ve ever seen,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been in the Senate since 1987, told POLITICO. “We literally are doing nothing — except confirming judges.”
It seems the stars are moving into alignment for the next legislative session already, with Democrats readying a play too retake the House. If Democrats are going to be able to pass any of the controversial legislation, such as comprehensive immigration reform, or undo some of the GOP gains while it was in power in the House, the Senate will need to retain its fragile majority.