Reid retreats on amendments for UI bill

Well, that didn’t take long.  After getting a few Republicans to agree to open debate on a bill to extend unemployment insurance, Harry Reid stabbed them in the back by blocking any GOP amendments to the bill through a favorite Reid technique called “filling the amendment tree.” Reid then attempted to blame Republicans for the stall on Thursday, smirking that they’d have to tell those cut off that they aren’t getting benefits because the GOP didn’t get “unlimited amendments.”

Suddenly, though, Reid hit retreat yesterday:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says he is now open to considering Republican amendments to a bill extending emergency unemployment benefits through most of 2014. …

But on Friday, a spokesman for Reid said Democrats would allow some limited number of germane amendments to the bill when it comes up next week.

“Senator Reid has continued speaking with his Republican colleagues since yesterday afternoon and informed them that he is absolutely willing for the Senate to consider a reasonable number of relevant amendments from Republicans,” spokesman Adam Jentleson said.

Six Republicans joined Democrats in a procedural vote to advance the unemployment bill earlier this week. But Reid’s objection to any amendments seemed to threaten their support for advancing the bill any further.

To Reid, that was probably a feature rather than a bug. Democrats want this to be an open issue during the 2014 midterm campaign, while most Republicans would probably vote for another extension if it is offset with spending cuts in other areas. The GOP wants to focus attention on the incompetence and failure surrounding ObamaCare, while Democrats want to talk about anything else but the disaster unfolding at HHS. Forcing Republicans to walk away is probably what Reid had in mind all along.

So what changed? Glenn Reynolds thinks it might be Democrats who are balking at making the chronically jobless hostages to a political strategy: “He must be facing some defections.” It might be that the media is making Reid’s dishonesty on tactics a little too easy to understand, too, or that some Democrats (and Republicans) really want to put their constituents ahead of 2014 midterm games — even with debate over the impact of the policy being a legitimate point of disagreement.

Either way, Reid’s forced retreat means that Republicans will at least get votes on their amendments. If those are somehow irrelevant or unreasonable, then the Democratic majority should be able to easily defeat them. If they are relevant and reasonable and some pass, though, it will show that Reid is the unreasonable factor in the US Senate. Too bad he’s not yet irrelevant.