Senate Democrats say they will insist on a vote on Sen. Jon Tester's bill to ease restrictions on hunters and sportsmen before Congress adjourns for the elections.
Updated: 6:22 p.m.
Electoral politics appears to be interfering with the Senate's ability to wrap up its business and hit the campaign trail.
In an eleventh-hour attempt to help a vulnerable incumbent - Montana Democrat Jon Tester - Senate Democrats say they will insist on a vote on Tester's bill to ease restrictions on hunters and sportsmen before Congress adjourns for the elections.
Though Democrats said they were close to a deal to vote on dueling foreign policy measures offered by Republicans, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved to delay any votes until Friday at the earliest. He said he suspected Republicans of dragging their feet to make sure Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) would miss a debate tonight against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who has presented a strong challenge.
"It's obvious to me what's going on. I've been to a few of these rodeos," Reid said on the floor this afternoon. "It's obvious there's a big stall taking place so one of the Senators who doesn't want to be in a debate tonight won't be in the debate. Well, he can't use the Senate as an excuse. There will be no more votes today."
Those watching the floor proceedings had no doubt Reid was making reference to Brown, though Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), disputed Reid's version of events.
"The only thing delaying the votes is Sen. Reid objecting to his own consent request. Despite Democrat efforts to wait until the last possible minute to make a decision, Sen. Brown was able to make his flight," Stewart said. "Nice attempt at spin, though."
An agreement seems at hand on holding votes on both a proposal by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to cut off foreign aid to Pakistan and a resolution sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would express opposition to a containment strategy regarding Iranian nuclear weapons development. Graham's measure has broad Democratic support, while Paul's will face widespread opposition.
McConnell proposed a deal on the Senate floor to set up those votes before finishing up the only must-pass bill on the Senate's agenda - a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded through March. McConnell's offer was essentially the same as one offered by Reid on Wednesday, but Democrats have decided to demand a vote on the Tester bill as well. Republicans object because they view that as a blatant effort to boost Tester's electoral chances in Montana.
Despite the hope for a deal that would allow Members to wrap up by Friday, Reid has told Senators to be prepared to work through Sunday.