Democrats change Senate rules to limit delay tactics as Republicans fume

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Associated Press
A mushroom cloud
Associated Press

The Republicans hoping to unseat President Obama have been on the campaign trail for months. Democrats have now stopped trying to pretend they are not.

Just hours after Mr. Obama called out the Senate's top Republican for trying to derail his jobs plan, the chamber's top Democrat took surpise action to prevent Republicans from offering endless amendments aimed at embarrassing the president.

The Senate late Thursday approved a rule change -- known in Washington as "the nuclear option" -- that prevents the minority party from forcing votes on amendments to a bill that has already worked its way through the legislative process and is about to get a final tally.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had planned to force such a vote on Mr. Obama's original $447 billion jobs proposal after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Democrats had signaled changes to the White House plan to make it more to their liking and the president had said he was comfortable with their changes.

McConnell wanted to force Democrats to vote against the president's original plan, which could not pass the chamber because it contained some provisions unpopular with the president's own party. Democrats have stripped out provisions to limit the tax deductions for families earning more than $250,000 to attract both Republican and Democratic votes. Senate Democrats instead added a 5.6 percent tax on income over $1 million.

While the Senate's move, passed mostly along party lines in a 51-48 vote, is procedural and technical, it is in keeping with a more combative stance toward Republicans that the White House has taken in recent weeks.

McConnell was furious with Reid's maneuver, arguing that the Senate was designed to give more power to the minority party than the House of Representatives, where the party out of power has little ability to block legislation backed by a simple majority. He said the minority party is "out of business." Reid's plan could backfire on Democrats if Republicans seize control of the Senate in next year's elections.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama called a press conference "to make the best arguments and mobilize the American people" to back his jobs package. An unmodified version of his plan has almost no chance of passage in the House of Representatives or the Senate.

The president called out House Speaker John Boehner and his Senate counterpart by name, noting that McConnell has said "his number-one goal was to beat me -- not put Americans back to work, not grow the economy, not help small businesses expand, but to defeat me. And he's been saying that now for a couple of years."

"I've got to go out and enlist the American people to see if maybe he'll listen to them if he's not listening to me," Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama discusses his campaign plans in an exchange with CBS senior White House correspondent Bill Plante:

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter» Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.