Republican lawmakers vowed to seek revenge in 2014 against Senate Democrats who last year trimmed the GOP's power to block most presidential nominees.
No longer allowed to use the filibuster to delay action on nominees for jobs in the administration and judiciary, Republicans said they would use their remaining authority to slow Senate business to a crawl, delaying action on routine matters that typically pass uncontested.
The Republican threat could mean that a Congress already deemed the least productive in history will get even less done in an election year in which all of the House and a third of the Senate are facing voters. Immigration reform, unemployment benefits, food stamp funding and a higher minimum wage are among the issues that could stall.
Republicans say they have no choice because the majority Democrats are running roughshod over the chamber.
“It's a tragedy the way the Senate is being run into the ground by basically one person,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pointing a finger of blame at the chamber's top Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
But Reid, too, claims Democrats had little choice but to act against a minority party that he said is already preventing Congress from addressing many of the nation's problems.
“With all of the Republican obstruction, delay, we have seen ... is it any wonder Democrats changed the rules [in November]? Of course not,” Reid said. “Even under these new rules, Republicans are wasting weeks on matters that could be resolved in mere hours.”
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., a staunch advocate of neutering the minority's ability to block executive branch nominees, said curbing GOP authority will ultimately pay dividends.
“What I was trying to work toward was a better-functioning Senate and having democracy be the front and center part of that,” Udall told the Washington Examiner. “The rules change is about having a democratic Senate -- being able to have majorities accomplish things.”
KOCH BROTHERS GROUP AIDS SCOTT BROWN IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity expanded its air war against vulnerable Democratic senators to New Hampshire, where its latest TV ad attacks Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for supporting Obamacare.
"Tell Sen. Shaheen it's time to be honest," the ad's narrator says. "Obamacare doesn't work."
New Hampshire Republicans said the group, backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, may be trying to undercut Shaheen's popularity to help former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who moved to New Hampshire to weigh a challenge against Shaheen.
"This is an attempt by outside groups to soften up Shaheen and convince Scott to get in the race," said one Republican operative with ties to Brown. "These type of ads will give a sense of how potent the Obamacare message will be against Shaheen."
Americans for Prosperity so far spent more than $1 million on an early television ad blitz that tied vulnerable Democrats to the troubled health care law. The group also targeted Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Kay Hagan in North Carolina.
NUNN FUELS DEM HOPES IN GEORGIA SENATE RACE
Paul Begala, the Democratic campaign strategist who helped Bill Clinton win the Oval Office, is now raising campaign cash for Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn by likening her prospects to the 1992 presidential contest in which Clinton narrowly won the heavily Republican state.
“Since it's not my first rodeo, I am not prone to irrational exuberance,” Begala wrote in his fundraising pitch. “But Michelle is the real deal. She is an outstanding candidate with a real chance to win in Georgia. She would make history as the first woman Georgia has ever elected to the Senate."
Fighting to retain control of the Senate, Democrats are cautiously optimistic about their chances of snatching the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Democrats are betting that a crowded, bitter Republican primary will leave the eventual GOP nominee so damaged that Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, will win in November.
Nunn raised $1.7 million in her first three months in the race, the largest take of any non-incumbent Senate candidate.