Tariff Threats Aside, the Senate Is Where Action Goes to Die

The tactic, while ideal for frustrating the ambitions of the new Democratic majority in the House and furthering a conservative slant on the courts, has begun to irritate even Republicans eager to take votes on items other than procedural rules and nominees, and who have introduced bills addressing bipartisan issues, such as election security and prescription drug pricing, only to see them go nowhere. The landmark Violence Against Women Act remains expired. The Higher Education Act awaits action, as does the annual defense policy bill.

Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, agreed in an interview that “it is a more of a challenge” even to “get common agreement on simple things.”

Mr. Kennedy, asked if he still believed that his colleagues in the Senate needed to get off their “ice-cold butts,” offered a correction: “Ice-cold lazy butts,” he said, the exact phrase he used last month to disparage the lack of legislative action.

Senate Democrats, watching their House counterparts celebrate the passage of bill after bill, have devoted hours to lambasting the senatorial “legislative graveyard.” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, vented that Mr. McConnell had “effectively turned the United States Senate into a very expensive lunch club that occasionally votes on a judge or two.”

To be sure, many of the bills passed by the House were never going to be taken up in a Republican-controlled Senate. Gun-control measures, even one patterned after a bipartisan background check co-written by Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, had no chance. Nor did measures to shore up the Affordable Care Act, extend legal protections to lesbian, gay and transgender people, and offer a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. House Democrats have used the same argument — such bills are just political messaging — to dismiss a Senate-passed bill, with language that affirms the right of local and state governments to break ties with companies that boycott or divest from Israel.

But some of the House-passed bills reflect measures drafted by Senate Republicans, such as Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine. Other bills, even immigration bills, could be answered with conservative versions in the hope of spurring a House-Senate negotiating conference.

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