Updated 2:55 p.m. | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced plans for an early getaway this week, but warned that the Senate will have to grind through the immigration bill next week, with a possible weekend session.
"We have a lot we have to finish during the July time period," the Nevada Democrat said, renewing his insistence that the Senate will complete work on the plan drafted by the "gang of eight" senators before the Fourth of July recess.
This is by no means the first time Reid has threatened weekend work. This time it seems to be designed to push senators toward agreements on calling up and voting on immigration amendments, but if that doesn't happen, senators and their staffs might want to prepare to cancel their plans for the weekend of June 22.
Reid said "both sides are working in good faith" to come up with a process to work through amendments, but the signs Thursday morning weren't all that good on that front.
After senators voted, 57-43, to kill an amendment offered by Judiciary ranking member Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, Reid offered a unanimous consent request to queue up a second batch of amendments. Grassley objected to the inclusion of an amendment filed by fellow Republican Dean Heller of Nevada.
That Heller amendment is co-sponsored by Reid. It would give Nevada a seat on the Southern Border Security Commission, which would make recommendations on enhancing border security.
Grassley criticized the commission itself on Wednesday.
"In recent years, Congress has become accustomed to outsourcing our work. We have a responsibility to legislate. The executive branch has a responsibility to enact. These are the basic tenants of government," he said. "The commission called for in this bill is unnecessary and irrelevant. This administration — and any future administration — must get the job done. No outsourcing the job to a commission. No excuses."
Heller thinks Nevada should have a role on the commission, particularly because of the number of foreign visitors to Las Vegas and other parts of the state.
In a statement, Heller spokeswoman Chandler Smith expressed the senator's frustration with the first week of floor debate.
"Senator Heller is extremely disappointed with both sides of the aisle. All along, Senate Leadership has promised an open and transparent process, but the first vote out the door was not an up-or-down vote," Smith said. "Voices are not being heard."
CQ Roll Call political reporter Kyle Trygstad and WGDB's own Meredith Shiner identified Heller as a senator to watch on the immigration issue.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a vocal critic of the gang of eight plan, said that Heller need not worry about getting a vote.
"I didn't realize Sen. Heller was pushing to get his amendment in there, but he'll get his amendment," Sessions said. "Whether it was in the first tranche of four was I guess the question."
"Regarding the border security commission amendment and all of Senator Heller’s amendments, these amendments are extremely important to Senator Heller," Smith said. "He is going to continue to push for votes on all of them because it’s the right thing for Nevada."