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Congress Can’t Seem to Let Go

In House and Senate, Democratic Leaders Struggle to Figure Out Endgame

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl and other Republicans on Tuesday railed against Democratic plans to push an omnibus spending bill.

Updated: 9:56 p.m.

Attempts to wrap up a bitterly contentious session of Congress fell into disarray Tuesday as Republicans vowed to filibuster a one-year spending bill and Democratic infighting threatened to sink the White House’s tax cut deal.

By late Tuesday night, the only thing that seemed certain was that Congress will, for the second year in a row, be in session the week of Christmas.

But even the end date continued to slip further into the future as Majority Leader Harry Reid raised the possibility of a post-Christmas — and potentially post-New Year’s — session to finish work on taxes, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the repeal of a ban on openly gay service members, immigration reform and even a public lands bill.

“There’s still Congress after Christmas. We’re not through,” the Nevada Democrat told reporters Tuesday, warning the session could extend into the new year. “Congress ends on Jan. 4.”

Reid’s schedule drew a strong and religiously charged rebuke from Minority Whip Jon Kyl.

“It is impossible to do all of the things that the Majority Leader laid out without doing — 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 Tuesday.

GOP anger wasn’t limited to the schedule, as leaders lashed out at Democrats’ proposal for a massive omnibus spending bill, carrying thousands of earmarks worth billions of dollars. Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) offered the bill as an alternative to the yearlong continuing resolution passed by the House last week.

“I am actively working to defeat it,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the omnibus bill released Tuesday. “It is completely and totally inappropriate to wrap all of this up into a 2,000-page bill and try to pass it the week before Christmas.”

The Kentucky Republican’s opposition comes despite the fact that he — and other Republicans — would garner millions of dollars in earmarks in the bill. For instance, the bill includes $3 million in funding for the Fort Campbell “Shoot House,” $1 million for a Kentucky Blood Center Building and $1 million for the Paducah Waterfront Development Project. All of those items were requested earlier this year by McConnell.

McConnell brushed aside questions about his earmarks, arguing that while he had sought the funding, he would oppose the bill because of how Reid brought it to the floor.

“I’m going to vote against things that arguably would benefit my state. I do not think this is the appropriate way to run the Senate,” he said.

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