Tales from the Trail

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.USA/

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.

Obama Hawaiian Vacation: Beach Day

If it’s Sunday in Hawaii, it must be beach day. Actually if it’s any day in Hawaii, it’s beach day.

OBAMA/But for President Barack Obama Sunday was the first day for a real  beach outing since he arrived in Kailua for the presidential Christmas break last Thursday.

Obama and family ventured out to Pyramid Rock Beach on a nearby Marine Corps base where the president stopped briefly yesterday we imagine to scope out the waves considering that Obama is known to locals as a more than adequate bodysurfer.

Ho Ho Healthcare

USA-WEATHER/SNOWSTORMNothing says Christmas in Washington like a cloture vote!

Keep those fir trees, ornaments, the city blanketed in white — though of course the U.S. capital has all of those this year too. What real Washingtonians are looking for is a getaway by December 25. And with an early morning vote  today to cut off Senate debate on healthcare reform legislation, it could actually happen.

It’s all about cloture. And don’t feel bad if you’ve never seen that word before. It’s an inside-the-Beltway term that means agreeing to limit legislative debate. Cloture requires a 60-vote majority of the 100-member Senate, rather than a simple majority. It’s going to take three cloture votes to get to the final vote on the bill, expected late on Christmas Eve.

The mere fact that members of Congress are still working during the week leading up to Christmas is pushing the envelope.

What will be in Obama’s Christmas stocking?

The last thing Republicans want to see this Christmas is the U.S. Senate giving President Barack Obama a nicely wrapped package of health care reform legislation.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele made that plain today. He hopes the Senate will be a lousy Santa who leaves nothing in Obama’s Christmas stocking.BRITAIN

“I hope so. I really do,” he told NBC’s Today show.

Steele says that’s because the American public doesn’t want the kind of healthcare legislation that Senate Democratic leaders have been talking about lately.

Will Obama get a Senate Christmas gift?

Senate Democrats are confident they will pass a sweeping healthcare overhaul and give President Barack Obama a significant victory on one of his top domestic priorities. But will they do it by Christmas? OBAMA/

It will be hard. Right now the bill is hung up over a Democratic amendment that would allow patients and pharmacies to import cheaper prescription drugs from other countries, including Canada. Democrats are also waiting for an official cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office on a proposed compromise that would drop the government-run public option from the bill.

The compromise would call on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to contract with insurance companies to provide non-profit health plans that would be offered on proposed new insurance exchanges. The compromise would also allow people 55 to 64 to buy into the Medicare health program for the elderly.