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A legislative graveyard, overseen by the Grim Reaper? Welcome to Congress 2019

Lesley Clark and David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Democrats accuse Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of presiding over a "legislative graveyard," while McConnell happily calls himself the "Grim Reaper" -- signs that political sniping is thriving on Capitol Hill, but not much else.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and other Democratic leaders used the word "graveyard" repeatedly Tuesday in a meeting with reporters to describe the state of legislation under a Republican-controlled Senate.

Schumer's complaint is the House keeps passing major legislation -- such as measures guaranteeing insurers won't discriminate against people with preexisting health conditions, tougher gun background checks and stronger election security provisions -- and the Senate refuses to seriously consider the bills. He's right.

"Leader McConnell has slowly but surely turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard," Schumer said. "where even the most consequential legislation that should be totally noncontroversial gets buried indefinitely."

McConnell, R-Ky., who has proudly dubbed himself the "Grim Reaper," is just fine with the Democrats complaining, saying if Democrats win the White House in 2020 he will be "the guy who is going to make sure that socialism doesn't land on the president's desk."

He did say Tuesday that the Senate would vote next week on the disaster aid legislation, saying he believed political posturing had tied it up.

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"It's time to quit the foolishness," he said. "I'm not going to send our members of either parties home to these storm or flood-ravaged states without some action."

But looking at the past as guide, it is too early to be calling the current congressional state of affairs a "legislative graveyard" at this point in the two-year cycle.

This Congress is now in its fifth month and little major legislation gets passed at the start of a new session, especially when different parties control each chamber -- Democrats control the House, while Republicans run the Senate.

"You can't judge a Congress until the end of the Congress," said Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman and founder of the Indiana University Center on Representative Government. "They get most things done at the end."

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