Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sparred Wednesday on the Senate floor over Democrats' legislative agenda, which McConnell alleged is "designed to fail" so Schumer can convince other Democrats to end the filibuster.
Schumer, D-N.Y., meanwhile, accused Republicans of choosing "obstruction and gridlock" because they filibustered an equal pay bill that he said shouldn't be partisan but McConnell warned would be a boon for trial lawyers more than anyone else.
"Senate Republicans mounted a partisan filibuster against a very straightforward piece of legislation to help provide equal pay to women," Schumer said. "It's shocking that my Republican colleagues believe that the Senate has no role to play in defending the rights of women who are unfairly and illegally discriminated against in the workplace."
Schumer continued: "The issue of pay equity has become a partisan one, sadly. Democrats in favor, Republicans opposed."
But McConnell, R-Ky., retorted that Schumer's agenda is simply a "series of radical proposals" meant to "illustrate that the Senate is broken" and eventually convince moderate Democrats to eliminate the filibuster.
The minority leader said Schumer's agenda amounts to "plans to jam hospitals, schools and small business with new high-stakes tests of wokeness; to dramatically curtail Americans' right to keep and bear arms; and of course to tip the scale of our electoral system permanently in their favor."
"Yesterday, the radical parade began with an attempt to use the cause of paycheck fairness as cover for placing unprecedented new legal burdens on American employers," McConnell continued, noting it's been illegal to pay women less money for the same work for six decades.
McConnell said Democrats' paycheck bill would subject businesses to "unlimited liability in workplace cases, even where malice plays no part."
He called it "a gift-wrapped bonanza for the trial bar."
McConnell also slammed Democrats for the fact they did not subject the paycheck bill to regular order – instead skipping the committee process and a markup.
"Well, apparently, when your agenda is designed to fail, regular order is just a waste of time," McConnell said.
The Senate on Tuesday passed what could be its biggest bipartisan agreement of the current two-year Congress in a sprawling bill aimed at helping the United States cooperate with China. But several divisive issues lay before it.
Infrastructure talks between Senate Republicans and President Biden dissolved Tuesday, and it's unclear how talks between the White House and a different bipartisan group will go – or if they can get enough Republicans on board with such a deal if an agreement is reached.
Democrats are also set to push forward on S.1, a bill that would massively expand the role of the federal government in elections. They say the bill is needed to push back on Republican-backed state election laws, while McConnell has said the bill is a naked power grab.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., are dug in against any changes to the filibuster that many Senate Democrats want to enable them to pass legislation without consulting Republicans. The pressure on the two moderates is likely to only increase if Republicans continue to block bills most Democrats favor.
But Manchin in an op-ed Sunday emphasized that Democrats happily used the filibuster when Republicans were in charge. He added that "it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past."
"I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster," Manchin said.