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Senate Deal on Taxes Puts an End in Sight

Durbin said a lapse in the moratorium would not be the political disaster suggested by some on the left because the leasing and drilling process could not begin immediately, giving Congress time to come back later this year or next to put more limits in place.

“Once you decide to drill offshore, there are years that pass before anything happens,” Durbin said.

Without a fight over an offshore drilling moratorium, the CR’s path through Congress has sidestepped a major obstacle. It remains uncertain, however, whether Democrats will seek include add-ons beyond disaster assistance and government loans for the auto industry.

Because Democrats expect the House stimulus bill to fall under a GOP-led filibuster, they might attempt to add some of those spending priorities to the CR. That’s likely to provoke Republicans. Still, Senate Democratic aides insisted those decisions will not be made until after a vote on the stimulus.

Meanwhile, it appears that bipartisan consensus is growing for a CR that would allow Congress to avoid a lame-duck session after the November elections. Reid reiterated Tuesday his desire to pass a CR that funds the government until February, and some influential Republicans, such as Gregg, said they too would like to see a longer-term CR.

The White House position on that approach is unclear, Democratic aides said, given that President Bush may want a shorter CR that would require Congress to come back in November or December so the White House could leverage other policy priorities at the end of the year.

But Gregg pooh-poohed that notion, saying the lame-duck president has few priorities beyond securing adequate funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The White House agenda can’t be that complex that they need to get us back. We should be able to take care of their agenda before we adjourn,” he said.

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