A Senate Christmas tale
(UPDATES with new Reid comments).
Christmas bells are ringing. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t seem to be listening. Much to the chagrin of staffers and more than a few senators, Reid is threatening to keep the Senate in session until Christmas Eve and beyond to finish all the legislative work that Congress failed to complete before the November elections.
That amounts to just about a whole year’s worth of lawmaking. Congress never got around to passing any of the 12 spending bills that fund the government. So the Senate is expected to take up a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill after senators voted to extend Bush-era tax cuts by two years and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for a year.
Reid earlier this week said “…we are going to complete our work, no matter how long it takes, in this Congress.”
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to fight the spending bill and Senator Jon Kyl suggested a Christmas reality check.
“It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out … frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff,” Kyl said.
Reid was not about to take questioning of his Christmas spirit quietly.
“I do not need to hear the sanctimonious lectures of Senators Kyl and DeMint to remind me of what Christmas means,” he said. (Republican Senator Jim DeMint complained about acting on a major arms control treaty right before Christmas).
“Senate Republicans need look no further than themselves in casting blame for the predicament we are in right now,” Reid said.
The House needs to act on the spending bill and tax cut so the Senate is not alone. Lawmakers had hoped to finish their work by the end of this week, but political maneuverings by both parties could keep at least the Senate in session for several more days.
Reid’s “to do” list also includes the START treaty and a healthcare bill for firefighters and other responders to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York who are suffering illnesses blamed on inhaling toxic fumes and dust.
Reid also wants a Senate vote on the Dream Act that would allow the children of undocumented immigrants a chance at gaining U.S. citizenship by serving in the military or going to college. And Reid wants the Senate to act on gays in the military after the House acts on legislation as expected.
All of this would have to be done by January 5 when the 112th Congress will be seated and Republicans take control of the House of Representatives.
Reid blames Republican obstruction for the long list of legislative chores as the 111th Congress draws to a close.
“If they decide to work with us we can all have a happy holiday,” he said.
It should be noted that the Senate was in session on Christmas Eve last year voting on the historic healthcare overhaul that House Republican leaders have vowed to repeal.
Photo credits: REUTERS/Molly Riley (The U.S. Capitol at Christmas); REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (A man dressed as Santa Claus skis in the Potomac River)