Senate quicksand engulfs a bipartisan plan that Trump backs thumbnail

Senate quicksand engulfs a bipartisan plan that Trump backs

The standstill — even on an issue that has bipartisan backing and the support of a fickle president — reflects the unceasing gridlock of today’s Senate and how difficult it is to move any major legislation through the upper chamber.
With Democrats in control of the House, the GOP-controlled Senate has shifted virtually its entire focus to confirming Trump’s judicial nominees where bipartisan votes aren’t needed. And heading into an election year, McConnell is loath to bring up issues that divide his caucus or risk alienating powerful industry groups. Legislative activity will only decline further if and when the Senate holds an impeachment trial that will further polarize the Capitol.
“I’ve said to people here, if you’ve been here four years or less you’ve never seen the Senate,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “And you would have loved it. It was an interesting place. We had bills, and amendments … we did big things.”
Senate Republicans have unsurprisingly ignored a raft of liberal measures passed by the Democratic House, including bills to curb gun violence or overhaul election laws. But even ostensibly less controversial legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act or strengthen retirement security have also run aground amid partisan bickering.
The only measures regularly moving are must-pass bills to avoid a shutdown, and lawmakers are still struggling to reach a long-term deal to fund the government.
McConnell has made no secret that stacking the judiciary with conservatives is a top priority. But he also argues that the Senate could do more if the House wasn’t stalling on matters like the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement or the annual defense policy bill.
“If [Democrats] are going to keep plowing ahead with their impeachment obsession, they cannot abdicate their basic governing responsibilities at the same time,” McConnell said recently.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing her own legislation to curb the cost of prescription drugs, but McConnell has said it has no chance in the Senate.
Most Republicans have long opposed federal intervention when it comes to the cost of prescription drugs, but public support for action as well as Trump’s embrace of the issue may be shifting the party’s stance.
The GOP leader said in September that the Senate’s next steps on prescription drugs were “under discussion” and that the chamber is “looking at doing something on drug pricing.” Still, McConnell has demonstrated little interest in taking up Grassley’s bill, which would cap seniors’ out of pocket costs on drugs in Medicare and penalize companies that levy large price increases, among dozens of other measures aimed at lowering spending on medication.
That’s despite Trump saying he likes Grassley’s bill “very much” and top White House aides throwing their support behind the legislation.
Health industry sources closely tracking the Senate proposal, say McConnell’s office is not making an effort to help the White House get his members on board.
Asked whether McConnell would bring the bill to the floor, one Republican senator said, “I can’t imagine. … It’s like Grassley, and a couple of Republicans and all the Democrats on the committee.”
Grassley has acknowledged that any action on his bill is likely slip i
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