Harry Reid: Ted Cruz acting as ‘joint speaker of House’
By: Seung Min Kim
October 3, 2013 12:44 PM EDT
On Day Three of a partial government shutdown, the Senate got off to a snippy start as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid elevated Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as the new “joint speaker” of the House of Representatives.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, was referring to the Republican-led House’s new tactic of passing piecemeal funding bills to fund agencies such as the National Institutes of Health.
The House leadership “is following Cruz’s idea specifically,” Reid said. “Sen. Cruz is now joint speaker. He lectures the House on occasion, as he does people over here.”
“We’re not going to give a blank check to the junior senator from Texas to pick his favorite person in government on a daily basis. Today it’s the parks. Tomorrow it’s NIH. Maybe later it will be something else,” Reid continued.
That prompted a terse exchange between Reid and top Senate Republicans Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas.
“With all due respect to my good friend, the majority leader, he was speaking about the junior senator from Texas, who I don’t see on the floor here at the moment,” McConnell said.
Cornyn, Cruz’s home-state colleague, said that by Reid criticizing Cruz while he was not around on the floor and able to defend himself, the spirit of Senate decorum was in “jeopardy of being transgressed.”
What followed was a procedural charade where Senate Republican leaders took turns attempting to pass separate funding bills for veterans benefits, to open up national parks and the World War II Memorial, NIH funding and legislation set to pass the House later Thursday that would ensure Reserve military service members would get paid.
All four were blocked by Democrats. Reid and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also tried to get unanimous consent to pass a clean continuing resolution to fund the government, but that was also blocked — by Republicans.
“If Democrats are unwilling to fund other parts of the government, at the very least they can agree to support our veterans,” McConnell said.
The floor shenanigans that made no progress to reopen the government transpired, despite an opening prayer from Senate Chaplain Barry Black that blistered Congress.
“Save us from the madness,” he said.
“Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable,” Black said. “Remove the burdens of those who are the collateral damage of this government shutdown, transforming negatives into positives.”