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Senate Schoolyard: Reid Threatens Recess

There's an old adage on Capitol Hill that nothing focuses the minds of lawmakers like the smell of jet fuel.

So with a July 4th holiday recess looming and lawmakers eager to flee the swamp and fly home for the week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Thursday morning once again threatened to keep the chamber in session over the weekend, as Republican objections to a housing reform bill continue to frustrate a majority eager to pass several pieces of key legislation before the recess.

“We have four major pieces of legislation that need to be considered before we can leave,” said Reid on the Senate floor Thursday morning.

In addition to housing, Reid said the chamber needs to pass an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a massive war supplemental spending bill and a Medicare update.

The Crypt remains skeptical about weekend votes, which are a rarity in this Congress, and increasingly uncommon in an election year where lawmakers want to spend as much time campaigning and fund raising back home on weekends.

The Senate schedule often mirrors that of a college student's semester, with loads of procrastination, followed by all-nighters on term papers due right before the holidays. Reid is no different than previous Senate majority leaders in leaving a logjam of huge bills until right before a long recess. Senators don't want to cut a deal until they have to, but they also don't want to head to those July 4th home town parades without having a few accomplishments to tout.

Reid said the chamber must take up the Medicare bill—which would prevent doctors who serve Medicare patients from taking a pay cut---before the recess, saying he will hold a weekend vote if necessary.

The FISA, Medicare and supplemental bills have been bottled up by two Republican senators who have so far refused to allow the majority to end debate on the housing bill, despite the fact that the bill is supported by 35 Republicans.  The odds are that Reid will give in and delay the housing bill in order to pass the FISA legislation and the Iraq war supplemental before the weekend.

Reid said he was “hopeful” the Senate could complete work on the supplemental on Thursday, but pulled out all of the rhetorical stops to describe his plight.

Harking back to his native state, Reid compared the chamber’s slow pace to a four-wheel drive vehicle stuck in the sand in the Nevada desert. 


Martin Kady II contributed to this post.

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