All Senator Ed Markey wanted to do was talk for one minute. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky would have none of it. And now Democrats are moving to capitalize politically.
A brief showdown between Markey and McConnell occured as the Senate debated and voted on amendments to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill late Thursday night.
McConnell used a procedural move to table an amendment proposed by Markey. The Massachusetts senator asked repeatedly to speak for one minute in support of his amendment, which affected excise taxes on oil imported through the pipeline. McConnell objected to Markey’s request.
McConnell used the same move to table amendments from Democratic Senators Tom Carper of Delaware, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Since the motion to table is not debatable, it forces senators to vote on questions—in this case the Democratic amendments. Democratic Senate staffers criticized McConnell on Twitter, claiming he broke his promise of an open amendment policy. Republicans pilloried former majority leader Senator Harry Reid of Nevada for using his own procedural tricks to limit Republican amendments to bills when Democrats had the majority, and McConnell vowed to be different.
The partisan squabbling continued Friday. Markey on Friday joined Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan in a teleconference Friday afternoon, slamming McConnell and Senate Republicans for sacrificing transparency and an open debate for political convenience. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart dismissed the comments as partisan sniping.