Senate Democrats Address Press After Weekly Policy Luncheon

Senate Majorirty Leader Harry Reid is pictured. | Getty


By MANU RAJU and BURGESS EVERETT | 6/23/14 11:26 PM EDT Updated: 6/24/14 5:26 AM EDT

Harry Reid has a new dilemma on his hands: restless Senate Democrats who are frustrated they aren’t casting enough votes.

For the past year, Reid and Republicans have bitterly sparred over the stunning inactivity in the Senate. But the majority leader is now facing growing pressure from fellow Democrats agitating over the lack of votes on amendments, a central aspect of legislating in the Senate.

Led by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a small but vocal group of mostly younger Democratic senators are meeting secretly and privately lobbying Reid to help ease the gridlock. While they blame Republicans for the bottleneck, they are pressing Reid to be more willing to entertain a freewheeling process, including more votes on amendments.

That type of shift might make eager lawmakers feel more productive, but it could also present challenges for vulnerable Democrats facing voters in the midterm elections.

If Reid were to allow more amendments, many Democrats in tough races would be forced to cast uncomfortable votes on health care, energy and social issues. Those votes could become fodder on the campaign trail and ultimately amount to precious little since few bills are expected to become law before November. Some votes could even threaten the party’s tenuous grip on the Senate majority.

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