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Christmas Wish List: To Pass Their Bills

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Kyl, above, cautioned Reid against packaging an online poker bill into a “Christmas tree” — a term for a bill that is loaded with disparate legislative priorities.

Even without a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, there’s no shortage of ornaments for a year-end legislative Christmas tree, but senators seeking a vehicle for their favorite bills may be left without one.

One prime example is legislation to establish a system of regulation for legalized online poker that also blocks other forms of Internet gambling. A priority of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the bill would traditionally be the kind of targeted provision that lands in a must-pass bill that advances before the end of a Congress. This year may be different.

Retiring Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., has worked with Reid and his Nevada GOP counterpart Dean Heller on the measure, even though Reid and Heller had a pre-election feud about the measure. Kyl said Tuesday that there would be sufficient Republican votes to get the bill around procedural hurdles on the floor, but he cautioned Reid against packaging it into some sort of “Christmas tree” — a term for a bill that is loaded with disparate legislative priorities.

“The problem is how you ever get a bill like that up. If it ever comes up to the Senate, and it’s offered in the appropriate way — that is to say, not part of some bill that nobody’s going to vote for — then there’s no question about Republican votes in my view,” Kyl said.

Reid appeared genuinely surprised when asked about the developments on the measure during his Tuesday afternoon media availability.

“Everyone listen to this: We suddenly have Republican votes on Internet poker. Two weeks before Christmas. Without being vulgar, what the hell were they putting on it?” Reid said in response to a question.

There’s no shortage of items that other senators would want to include in a catchall measure. Another group of senators wants to find a home for a proposal to allow states to collect sales tax for Internet-based purchases. In addition, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., still wants to find a home for a collection of bills to benefit hunters and others sportsmen.

Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., a supporter of the online sales tax bill, signaled last week that the bill would not hitch a ride on a fiscal cliff agreement.

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