WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans have lost their roadblock mojo, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said Thursday, suggesting GOP members may be trying to kill a pair of popular bills their leaders say they support.
One is the the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, barring Congress from insider trading -- expected to pass the Senate Thursday. The other is an extension of the payroll tax cut, which runs out at the end of the month.
"Republicans seem like they want to kick the can down the road on the STOCK Act, and they also seem to want to run out the clock on the tax cut for the middle class," Schumer, of New York, charged in a Capitol Hill press conference. "Their obstruction, which they did more artfully last year, is now becoming clear to the public. Their idea of blocking bills with no fingerprints on them is gone."
Schumer and other Democratic leaders raised doubts about Republican sincerity on both measures. On the STOCK Act, for example, Republican senators objected to Republican amendments earlier in the week, even after the Senate voted 93-2 to start work on the bill.
"Even more worrisome, you have the House, especially Leader Cantor, being vague about whether he'll take this up when it passes the Senate, even if it covers the administration, which was his original objection," Schumer said, referring to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who insisted that White House employees be subject to the STOCK Act's ethics rules.
"If you didn't know better, you'd think this effort by the Republicans to make never-ending so-called improvements to the bill was really just a clever tactic to kill it," Schumer said.
Cantor's office scoffed at the charge, noting that Cantor this week promised to bring out a House version of the bill this month. The measure has languished through Democratic-controlled Congresses as well, Cantor's office said.
"Sen. Schumer should ask now-Minority Leader Pelosi why she buried this bill throughout her entire speakership, and why the Democratic-controlled Senate has ignored it for years," Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said in an email. "Eric Cantor has been a leading advocate of the STOCK Act and is committed to passing the strongest bill possible as soon as possible."
But the Democrats' charges went beyond the STOCK Act, to the extension of the payroll tax credit, unemployment benefits and enhanced Medicare payments to doctors, all of which nearly ran out in a pre-Christmas showdown and are now set to expire at the end of this month.
"We'd prefer a bipartisan agreement, but thus far, particularly in the House … when they spend all morning talking about" incinerator deregulation, "we doubt their enthusiasm to get a payroll tax cut done," Reid said.
Reid said Democrats would raise the pressure on GOP members by forcing them to vote on measures to extend the payroll cuts and other provisions before Feb. 29.
"I want everybody to be put on notice, that we are not going to walk away from this without having some serious votes," said Reid. "If they're unwilling to do something on a bipartisan basis, then we're going to do something to move the bill forward."
Speaking to a handful of reporters later, Schumer elaborated on the GOP's waning ability to stall. "I think you're seeing things changing," he said. "When the fingerprints are visible on obstructionist acts [against legislation] that the public wants very much, they have to back off. Last year, they weren't backing off. It's a difference, and I hope it's a difference that stays."