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Big bills held hostage in Senate

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), center, Thursday on

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), center, Thursday on Capitol Hill, is looking for Congress to pass tax-cut extensions. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ailing 9/11 workers, gays in the military and immigrant children are all victims of Senate Republicans' decision to hold everything before Congress hostage to tax cuts for the wealthy.

Consideration of a $7.4-billion bill to care for and compensate people who helped clean up at Ground Zero was blocked yesterday when supporters failed to muster 60 votes to end a Republican filibuster. So was a bill to repeal "don't ask, don't tell'' to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military.

The Dream Act suffered a similar fate. It would allow people brought to the country illegally as children to become citizens if they go to college or the military. A vote was put off because advocates couldn't corral 60 votes.

The House has passed the three bills. The Senate should too. Instead a Republican minority is abusing the filibuster to block action until the Bush tax cuts are extended for people at all income levels. They may get their way, even though most of the public wants the tax cuts extended only for those earning less than $250,000. The House voted to do just that, a Senate majority signaled its support and the president abandoned that position only when Republicans wouldn't budge.

That obstructionism calls into question the legitimacy of the filibuster, which Senate rules have allowed since the 1830s. Senators initially had to talk continuously to hold the floor. That changed in the 1970s and since then, the use of filibusters has soared. The result is too often minority rule. hN

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