Reid remained hopeful Tuesday that a deal on the continuing resolution could be reached soon.
An outsider looking at the Senate floor on C-SPAN 2 on Tuesday had a good chance to see one of the seemingly endless quorum calls that have become the chamber’s calling card in recent years. Senators spoke on the floor at various points throughout the day, but the quorum calls provided regular interludes.
What made Tuesday stand out, however, is that Senate leaders agreed less than two months ago to a filibuster rules deal that was intended to prevent such time-wasting endeavors.
Though the Senate has already voted to limit debate time on the stopgap spending bill currently up for debate, some GOP senators have objected to waiving the requisite 30 hours of additional debate in an attempt to get the chamber to vote on their amendments.
It’s not supposed to happen this way. When the Senate adopted the formal rules changes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also entered into a handshake agreement on how to deal with such empty blocks of floor time. The leaders agreed that in those instances they would force senators to the floor to produce a live quorum and debate the objections or issues at hand.
But so far that hasn’t happened, despite threats from some senators to hold up the bill for the rest of the week. If no agreement is reached and all time for debate on both the Senate substitute language and the underlying bill gets used up, then the Senate would have to wait until Thursday to pass the continuing resolution to keep the government funded through September.
Under the Reid-McConnell agreement, further quorum call requests could be ruled dilatory post-cloture, which, in theory, would make it easier to burn through the debate time without having to exhaust the entire 30 hours.
Democratic leadership aides did not immediately respond to requests for comment on why the new process is not being used.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Reid remained hopeful that a deal on the continuing resolution could be reached to provide a quick getaway before Passover and Easter, acknowledging that many of his past threats of Friday and weekend sessions have evaporated thanks to late agreements.
“I, a lot of times, say we’re going to have to be here on Friday, and we get things through on Thursday. And that can happen again,” Reid said. “But we are going to finish the CR, and we’re going to finish the budget before we leave here for the Easter break. That is for sure.”
Of course, the budget resolution, by law, gets 50 hours debate on the floor, and Senators are given the opportunity to offer unlimited amendments on a myriad of subjects thereafter. While the Senate also could reach a unanimous consent agreement to curtail that, Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions said that wasn’t in the cards.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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