Updated 11:45 a.m. | The Senate is on track to clear a House-passed "clean" suspension of the federal debt limit and a bill fix to military pension cuts before lawmakers jet out of town.
The move should allow senators to beat the arrival of a snowstorm on Capitol Hill. A unanimous consent agreement sets up a 1:45 p.m. vote to invoke cloture — and thus limit debate — on the debt limit suspension until through mid-March of 2015. That vote has the 60-vote threshold forced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Assuming cloture is invoked, a simple-majority vote to formally concur in the House version would happen right away.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had announced an agreement earlier Wednesday setting up a 2 p.m. vote on the military cost-of-living adjustment measure, which would undo cuts in last year's budget agreement hammered out between House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The COLA vote will immediately follow the debt limit votes.
The Senate had been starting to debate a separate version introduced by Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor that did not provide for offsetting the cost of the fix. But, after the House easily passed a version that pays for the adjustment using an extension of Medicare sequestration for an additional fiscal year, quick action by the Senate seemed inevitable.
That comes despite criticism of the offset by Democrats. Pryor said Wednesday he would vote for the House COLA bill and clean debt ceiling hike.
"I think we moved the process along," he said of the COLA debate.
It comes after he said at a news conference that he said it should not be paid for. On debt limit said he supports because he doesn't "want the nation to default."
Ryan also slammed the repeal of the military COLA provision yesterday as Congress once again ducking hard choices.
Interestingly, there will not be a super-majority requirement for clearing the COLA bill. That's unlike the House-passed measure to suspend the debt limit into 2015. Cruz announced Tuesday he will require 60 votes for that measure to get through the Senate.