Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said she was “optimistic” that any election outcome would be a welcome change for the Senate, an institution that has faced near unprecedented gridlock that has left members of both parties frustrated.
“It’s got to get better,” McCaskill said. “It can’t get worse.”
A number of bills have stalled in the Senate in the past year, including a measure to fund the nation’s military. In February, House Democratic leaders announced that, at the time, the Senate had failed to act on nearly 300 bills passed in the House. Democrats have used the lack of action to blast Republicans for voting against their measures, and Republicans have accused Democrats of introducing frivolous bills for political reasons.
McCaskill said that both parties should bear some of the guilt, but stressed that the Republicans shoulder most of the blame by blocking Democratic bills.
“Both sides play games,” she said. “But if you look at history, no minority has ever done, ever come close to doing, what they have done.”
She added that Republicans were “using the rules as a sword rather than a shield” and were turning Senate traditions “upside down and on its head.” (Republicans have said the same thing about Democrats.)
It is little wonder that most members of the Senate, from the liberal House Majority Leader Harry Reid, to conservative South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, just “wanna go home.”
Regardless of whether the Senate changes leadership after the November midterm elections, polls suggest that the body will face some major changes. Tea Party-backed candidates like Linda McMahon in Connecticut, Rand Paul in Kentucky and Joe Miller in Alaska could make the Senate a very different place, a prospect that is receiving mixed reactions on Capitol Hill.
Despite the possibility of a surge in conservative candidates, McCaskill said she remains upbeat.
“Hopefully we can work together again,” she said.