Republicans Blame Byrd But That’s Not the Whole Story


Jon Henke, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s New Media Advisor, is saying that Sen. Byrd’s opposition to the line-item veto was a part of the series of events that led to the stalling of the ethics bill.

It was Senator Byrd, not the Republicans, who derailed the ethics reform vote. Here’s Harry Reid last night, discussing the agreement between the Republican and Democratic leadership that would allow the ethics reform bill and the Gregg Amendment to move forward to a vote.

“Mr. President, to bring everyone up to date as to where we are, I made a good-faith offer to the minority that we will put the line-item veto off to another day. Senator Byrd was not agreeable to that. I talked to Senator Byrd on more than one occasion this evening, the last time for a significant amount of time, and he simply believes this line-item veto is a matter of great constitutional import, that for us to agree at this time to debate this would be wrong and that he simply will not do that.” — (Sen. Harry Reid, Congressional Record, 1/17/07, p. S647)

Byrd, who strongly believes that the Congress should not cede one of its few remaining powers to the executive, was one of the reasons the bill has been put on hold for the moment. Sen. Judd Gregg also holds responsibility for not only knowing that introducing the line-item veto amendment would be a lever to halt debate, but also for not acquiescing to a deal with Sen. Reid earlier (Roll Call):

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to avert a showdown by guaranteeing he would provide floor time before the Easter recess for a stand-alone bill granting the president rescission authority, and, if it passed, would send it to conference negotiations with the House. But in a floor debate with Reid, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who offered the amendment, appeared to reject the offer.

“Why not do it now?” he asked.

The line-item veto is a highly controversial piece of legislation that has already been found unconstitutional once. It is well known that the discussion of it in the Senate engenders much ill-will, as one can see from Sen. Byrd’s reaction. So, why must it be discussed as an amendment to a large ethics reform package? Gregg and the Minority could have accepted — and still might accept — a debate on the issue at a later date. Instead they chose to threaten a filibuster of the ethics bill.

Word is that the two sides may come to an agreement within the next few hours that will allow Sen. Gregg his debate at a later time and permit the ethics legislation to go through. There is no reason that this cannot be achieved.