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The Senate is lumbering toward a spending bill that will prevent a government shutdown on March 27, very slowly. Congress watcher Jamie Dupree has the whole, depressing saga of this bill, which has been languishing on the floor since it passed out of committee March 11.
The next day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to quickly move the Senate on to the bill, but ran into resistance from Republicans, as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) protested that they weren't given enough time to read the bill before legislative action commenced.
Ah, the old "reading the bill" trope, one of the favorite Republican excuses for obstruction. Here's a dirty little secret of Congress: Members don't read bills. That's why they have staff, who divide up the bill by their issue areas and then brief their bosses. It's a stalling tactic, pure and simple. As is the next tactic they employed, delay by amendment. Something like 90 amendments flooded in when the bill came to the floor. A handful were dispensed with in the first few days of consideration, then the process ground to a halt as the amendments piled up and no agreement on how to proceed on them could be found.
Sen. Reid made clear that if there was no agreement, he would move to cut off debate Monday and then force final action, which would likely mean no votes on any more amendments.
When the Senate returned on Monday afternoon this week, there was still no agreement; several hours later Reid went to the floor with a deal to allow for ten amendments to be voted on.
That did not satisfy every Senator, and his request was quickly torpedoed.
"I object," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who wanted a vote on her plan to strike out $380 million for a controversial missile defense program known as MEADS.
Which is where they've been pretty much since. Reid did move to cut off debate with a cloture motion that passed Monday afternoon. Then 30 hours had to elapse because that's what cloture does. But here's the odd thing with this bill: procedurally, it's two bills. It's the House bill H.R. 933, the underlying bill, and the Senate substitution bill to that one. Which means there has to be two cloture votes, and two 30-hour waiting periods. Barring any agreement reached today, the final vote on this bill won't happen until Thursday. But, hey, that's a full six days (including what is supposed to be the congressional Easter/Passover recess) for the bill to go back to be passed by the House and signed by the president before the government runs out of money.
No wonder we can't have nice things.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 08:32 AM PDT.