The speeches were one part airing of grievances, one part campaign rhetoric, in a not-so-veiled attempt to influence the message as lawmakers go back to their districts next week. This could be the final day the Senate is open for business before the election.
The short one- or two-minute speeches covered a broad range of topics from the budget, to debt, to high unemployment and foreign policy. But no matter the topic, the message that Senate Republicans hoped to send is that Obama and the Senate Democrats have “failed” to lead — and Republicans can offer something “better” for the nation.
Fierce criticism came from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., over the president’s touting of his foreign policy successes.
“Four years later, almost, after the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded, where do we stand as a nation? Osama bin Laden is dead. That’s good. That’s a great accomplishment. The president should take pride in that. We should all celebrate the death of that evil man. But that’s not a foreign policy. Is anybody deterred from attacking America in the Middle East because bin Laden is dead?” Graham asked.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, called on Senate Democrats to not take recess until progress is made on the so-called fiscal cliff, the battle over taxes and spending, which needs to be resolved before the end of the year.
“We’re facing another manufactured crisis this year with a fiscal cliff that never would have existed if the Senate had remained in session, had fewer recesses, and maximized every legislative day based on the job we were elected to do,” Snowe said, “I call on the majority leader to continue to have us remain in session, to lay the groundwork for the bipartisan solutions on these monumental issues.”
Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said that under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Reid the Senate has not tried to do hard things.
“What it has attempted to do is abandon the tasks that should be in front of us. America deserves better, it deserves better leadership, it deserves leadership based on bringing this country together rather than dividing this country,” Coburn said.
Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., addressed her comments directly to President Obama.
“You have been AWOL on this critical issue and our troops and nation deserves better,” she said. “Lead. Be the commander in chief. Your leadership has been absent.”
Senate Democratic leaders dismissed the Republicans’ coordinated speeches, calling them a “dog and pony” show.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., likened them to her time as a former preschool teacher, when, on the last day of school before summer, there was always one student who hadn’t done any homework all year long and finally showed up on their best behavior, homework in hand, hoping to leave a good impression.
“They thought maybe that this last ditch-effort could help them avoid a bad grade, and unfortunately it doesn’t work that way,” she said, “so let me assure Republicans of one thing. Their record of obstruction and their refusal to compromise will not go away at the 11th hour.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., chalked up the move today by Senate Republicans to presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “drag effect” on their own poll numbers.
“Their presidential nominee just offended half the country. His flailing campaign is now having a drag effect for Republican Senate candidates across the country, and this has them a little cranky, as we saw on the floor this morning. This is not where Republicans thought they’d be with 50 days left before election.”