As The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray reports, Senate Democrats are grasping for time as they attempt to close out the rest of their agenda. Among many other things, Democrats still need to extend unemployment benefits, pass financial reform, bring Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, and confirm dozens of pending executive branch nominees. Of course, through all of this, Democrats will have to contend with a hyper-obstructionist Republican minority. Indeed, insofar that floor time is a precious commodity for Senate Democrats, it's because GOP senators have used filibusters to hugely delay the legislative process. Where it once took a few hours to pass noncontroversial legislation, it now takes days. And where it once took a few days to confirm noncontroversial nominees, it now takes weeks. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's strategy of intransigence hasn't been completely successful -- see: the passage of health-care reform -- but it has kept Democrats from completely capitalizing on this rare moment of power.
That said, Democrats haven't exactly behaved as if they wanted to capitalize on this moment. They have had ample opportunity work around Republican obstructionism. Majority Leader Harry Reid could have maximized floor time by scheduling regular weekend votes and shortening or eliminating Senate recesses. This last recess, for example, was a lost opportunity for Democrats; given the packed agenda, Reid should have used last week to hold as many votes as possible. Still, Democrats have a chance to maximize their floor time by taking full advantage of the next two months. Reid should cancel the next recess and extend the legislative schedule into August and September. Yes, vulnerable senators might want more time to campaign, but losing the August recess is far preferable to losing the opportunity to pass more legislation and confirm more judicial and executive branch nominees. Indeed, it's possible that even the threat of canceling will push Democratic senators to work faster and harder over the next few weeks.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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