On the second day of the lame-duck session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was already on the floor expressing frustration about the chamber’s schedule. That may not bode well for December.
The Nevada Democrat sounded a dubious tone about the prospects for bipartisan cooperation on a defense authorization bill. He said he wants to start consideration of that measure immediately after the Thanksgiving break, but he signaled he might have to file a motion to limit debate on calling up the bill.
“If we get permission to move to the bill, we’ll have an open amendment process on this bill,” Reid said, adding that Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., are committed to working through amendments. But Reid warned that all bets are off on that score if he has to jump through all the procedural hoops allowed under the rules.
A fight over the defense bill would be a poor way to start the post-Thanksgiving session, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said.
“This is low-hanging fruit,” she said. “If we can’t get this done, I might get pessimistic about getting anything else done.”
Reid also said the Senate could have a long day Thursday and perhaps work into Friday on a bipartisan package of measures designed to benefit sportsmen.
Reid said a vote to cut off debate on the sportsmen’s measure would come at 9:15 a.m. Thursday — an unusually early hour for a roll call — because several senators have business to attend to in their home states.
“We have members representing the states of New York and New Jersey who are going to be in their states tomorrow because of the tremendous damage caused by Sandy, but they will be back here tomorrow evening, and we’ll vote in the morning on cloture on the sportsman’s bill and then we could have votes later tomorrow or on Friday,” Reid said.
The legislation is a priority for Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who touted the bill back home during his successful re-election campaign. Republican aides contended the bill was scheduled in part to give Tester a needed electoral boost.
The measure has broad appeal but is not entirely without controversy.
The Humane Society of the United States is pushing for an amendment backed by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Scott P. Brown, R-Mass., and several others that would strike language allowing hunters to bring dozens of polar bear carcasses into the United States as trophies.
Reid said that allowing a vote on that proposal would likely prompt requests for votes on GOP amendments. He already expects Republicans to get a vote on a procedural budget motion as part of the debate on the sportsmen’s measure.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.