By Scott Wong
June 9, 2011 04:04 PM
Sen. Olympia Snowe may have finally worn down Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
After months of defiantly blocking Snowe’s bill to ease federal regulations on small businesses, Reid (D-Nev.) allowed the legislation to come to a vote Thursday as an amendment to a larger economic development bill.
On a 53-47 vote, the amendment failed to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to proceed, but the Maine Republican chalked it up as a symbolic victory.
“The fact that we got a majority signifies the significance of this issue and a recognition that we need to address regulatory reform in this session,” Snowe, the top Republican on the Senate Small Business Committee, told two reporters after the vote. “I’m glad I could get a vote.”
The vote followed weeks of bickering between Snowe and Reid that spilled out onto the Senate floor last month and drew the chamber to a standstill during a debate over a non-controversial small business reauthorization bill.
Snowe blocked the bill because Reid would not allow a vote on her amendment; Reid blamed Snowe for “killing” the legislation and accused her of raising the issue for political gain ahead of her tough reelection bid in 2012.
The episode only reinforced the public’s perception of a Congress mired in partisan gridlock, unable to work together to create jobs or fix the economy.
For weeks, Reid had argued that Snowe’s amendment impacted several federal agencies and needed to be brought up in multiple Senate committees. Then at 9:45 a.m. Thursday, Reid called Snowe telling her that her bill would get a vote.
Snowe said she didn’t know why Reid suddenly called up her bill, and neither did several of her GOP colleagues, 12 of whom co-sponsored it.
“It’s puzzling to me,” Snowe’s Maine GOP colleague, Sen. Susan Collins, told POLITICO.
E-mails to Reid’s office were not returned. But Snowe has been a thorn in Reid’s side for months, repeatedly taking to the Senate floor to blast Reid for blocking her bill. On Thursday, she spoke on and off for nearly an hour on the floor, making the case for her small business amendment that would require federal agencies to reevaluate regulations that impact small businesses.
“This is again what I describe as politics of obfuscation. Get to the heart of the matter and solve problems for America. It isn’t about who authors it, who is doing it. Let’s do it – that’s the point. We’re not doing it,” Snowe said in one of her rants. “We’re just sitting here talking, recessing, going to go home today, going to do something else, going to have recesses.”
One top Senate GOP aide described Snowe as “incredibly tenacious and unafraid of sticking up for her constituents in Maine and small businesses everywhere,” adding that it didn’t make any sense for Reid to obstruct a bill to help small businesses when the economy is so bleak.
But Senate Small Business Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said if Snowe were truly serious about regulation reform, she would partner with the five other senators on both sides of the aisle who are working on the issue.
“This is not about finding a solution. This is about public relations, campaigns and Republican rhetoric about the election. And that’s what I object to. …” Landrieu said on the Senate floor before the vote. “This isn’t about fixing the problem. This is about bumper stickers for elections and I am very tired of it.”