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Final Showdown on Spending

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) plans to offer an amendment to the package of spending bills that would continue funding for Nevada’s planned nuclear waste repository Yucca Mountain.

The Senate will begin debate this week on a second minibus package, which includes the State and foreign operations appropriations bill, the financial services and general government appropriations bill, and the Energy and water development appropriations bill.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) plans to offer an amendment to the package of spending bills that would continue funding for Nevada’s planned nuclear waste repository Yucca Mountain, a project Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has pledged to end. The Obama administration has also taken steps to end funding for the project.

Kirk said he is exploring his options for forcing a vote on the amendment if Reid tries to keep the proposal from coming to the floor.

“I am new here, but we are going to be sitting down with the parliamentarian to make sure we can,” Kirk said on Thursday.

“I think the need is to keep the program going until Reid is no longer Majority Leader, which I would expect to be in 13 months,” Kirk said Friday off the Senate floor.

Some Democrats may back the amendment. Last year, when she was running for re-election, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) offered a similar amendment during an Appropriations Committee markup. Washington state is home to the Energy Department’s 586-square-mile Hanford Site. The site’s works have generated billions of gallons of nuclear waste, which must now be cleaned up, removed or remediated.

Murray’s amendment was defeated. However, one Democrat and all but one Republican joined Murray in support.

Kirk also plans to offer an amendment that would sanction the Central Bank of Iran in an effort to economically cripple the Iranian government.

The amendment comes after Kirk and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) spearheaded the idea in an Aug. 9 letter signed by 92 Senators and sent to President Barack Obama.

Kirk, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, also predicted that House Republicans would object to any catchall, end-of-year appropriations package and instead will push for a yearlong CR.

“There are a few of us who still go to the House and talk to House Members and a rancid piece of trash headed over there, hot off the Xerox machine with a ‘trust us’ note is not a viable strategy,” Kirk predicted. “In the end, the House will look at a CR formula that spends less.”

Kirk added that the House and Senate Appropriations panels “miscalculated wildly last year when it destroyed its influence” by failing to win support for passage of a Democratic-authored omnibus.

“I think [a yearlong CR] is clearly where we are headed,” Kirk said. “I think the problem is that Senate Democratic leaders so hate the House that [they] don’t understand how the House operates. I think White House legislative affairs actually doesn’t understand the House either.”

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