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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) locked in a deal this afternoon that will allow the Senate to depart for the November elections in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
"The agreement paves the way for the completion of the remaining business for the work period. It's going to be a very early morning - or late night - however you look at it," Reid said. "But it's the right thing to do."
Under the deal, the Senate will hold a set of votes starting at 11:30 p.m. tonight on a pair of competing foreign policy proposals and passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through March. Senators will finish with a procedural vote that could set up a broad package of measures benefitting hunters and fishermen as the first item of business when the chamber returns for the post-election lame-duck session.
The timing will allow Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to return to Washington, D.C., for the votes. He traveled to Colorado on Thursday night so he could attend today's announcement that the Chimney Rock archaeological site there will be designated as a national monument.
The votes will begin with Senators rebuffing a bid by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to curtail foreign aid to Pakistan, Libya and Egypt. A slew of Senators, including many Republicans, took to the floor today to blast Paul's plan for less American involvement in the Islamic world.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) led the opposition effort with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Graham has stressed that the libertarian foreign policy views held by Paul are not reflective of the Republican Party in general. Graham said Paul's proposal would send a particularly bad signal to those trying to develop democracy in Libya.
"They need our help, they need our help in providing border security, in bringing these militias under control and these weapons that are proliferated everywhere. So, our message with the Paul amendment ... is adios, see ya around," Graham said.
He used strong language describing the consequences of passing the proposal, saying he believes the Paul amendment is just the type of ammunition "crazy, extremist Islamic terrorists who want to kill us all" need to help foment more violence against Americans.
Paul's insistence that the Senate vote on his anti-foreign aid proposal, however, also provided an opportunity for hawkish Senators, such as Graham and McCain, get a vote to demonstrate overwhelming support of their position on Iran.
Graham is leading a bipartisan coalition in support of a resolution rejecting any policy that would seek solely to contain Iran if it eventually develops a nuclear weapon. The resolution has more than 80 co-sponsors, but Paul said he would oppose it and implied that it could be used to justify a U.S. war with Iran.
After the foreign policy matters, the Senate is set to hold votes on a six-month stopgap spending bill that is expected to be cleared for President Barack Obama's signature.
The sportsmen's measure is a collection of bills on issues ranging from hunting and fishing to migratory bird conservation. The scheduling maneuver could be a political win for Sen. Jon Tester, a vulnerable Democratic incumbent facing off against Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) in Montana.
"I'm gratified that we're on track to attempt to move this measure when we get back," Reid said, in reference to the sportsmen's measure.