Will Harry Reid keep the Senate in session through Christmas?
Senate majority leader Harry Reid wants to take up a slew of important issues after the tax deal is passed – from a $1.2 trillion budget bill to a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.'
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“It is completely and totally inappropriate to wrap all of this up into a 2,000-page bill and try to pass it the week before Christmas,” he said. “I'm vigorously in opposition to it.”Skip to next paragraph
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Republicans want to pass short-term funding now and take up the issue in earnest in February. In that scenario, the GOP-controlled House could launch its plans to cut spending and ban earmarks for fiscal year 2011 as well as the next fiscal year.
To impede the progress of an omnibus spending bill, several GOP senators announced Tuesday that they will force Democrats to read the entire bill from the floor – one of the most powerful, but rarely invoked, rights of any senator.
“This nearly 2,000-page omnibus filled with thousands of earmarks shows they are still determined to ram through as much big-government spending as they can in this lame-duck session,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina in a statement.
Senator DeMint, an early supporter of tea party-backed GOP freshmen, also objects to funding in the omnibus bill for the “unconstitutional Obamacare law that Americans oppose and have asked Congress to fully repeal.”
Budget watchdog groups, who are still poring over the draft bill to identify "pork-barrel" projects, call this crash omnibus bill an abuse of the budget process. This is the first year that the Senate did not pass any appropriations bills, and the first year since the Budget Act of 1974 that the House and Senate did not pass a budget resolution.
The tax deal represents a rare spot of compromise in the last month of the 111th Congress. House Democrats broadly rejected the deal “as currently written” in a caucus meeting on Dec. 9, especially the move to extend tax breaks for the top 3 percent of earners. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a statement, called it “a bonus tax cut to millionaires and billionaires.”
But House majority leader Steny Hoyer Tuesday signaled a more conciliatory tone in Democratic ranks. Noting the 83 senators who backed the deal on a procedural vote on Monday, Congressman Hoyer said the Senate vote “indicates an urgency that is felt by a broad spectrum that the middle-income taxes not be increased come Jan. 1."
"I think that when you look at this plan, there are some very good things in it from the perspective of growing the economy, reaching out to people who are unemployed, and giving them some additional help,” he said at a briefing with reporters on Tuesday. “There are a lot of things in there that are going to help middle-income families in a tough economy. So people have to weigh that.”
If House Republicans vote together, as they often do on major votes, the tax-cut deal can pass with the support of 39 of the 255 House Democrats. Fiscal conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats sustained heavy losses in the Nov. 2 election, but still number 54 until Jan. 4, and many are expected to back extending the tax cuts.
The final Senate vote on the tax deal is expected Wednesday morning.