Daschle to Build Support for Filibuster Over Break

Posted December 9, 2003 at 3:29pm

As the Senate wound down its 2003 session today, Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) warned that the nearly month-and-a-half break is not necessarily going to dampen Democrats’ resolve to block passage of the fiscal 2004 omnibus spending bill when Congress returns in January.

After Democratic opposition this morning prevented Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) from considering the omnibus before adjournment, Daschle announced that he would continue to urge his fellow Democrats to turn back Republican attempts to limit debate time, or invoke cloture, on the bill when they return Jan. 20.

Still, Daschle acknowledged that he did not yet know if his colleagues would follow his lead in trying to filibuster the omnibus.

“I haven’t vetted it adequately,” he said.

But he indicated he would use the time over the holidays to have what he called a “sequential caucus” that will involve calling most of the 49 Democratic Senators individually to assess their support for a filibuster.

Frist has set a cloture vote on the omnibus for 2:30 p.m. Jan. 20, the same day that President Bush is expected to deliver his State of the Union address.

Daschle’s remarks today indicated that Democrats might hand Bush a defeat just hours before he is expected to tout his accomplishments of 2003 and outline his new priorities for the coming election year.

Asked whether the potential Democratic-led filibuster would seek to simply extend debate or send the omnibus back to conference, Daschle said his preference would be to “try to address some of these [Democratic objections] and come back with a clean bill.”

Daschle added, “We have to take care of the egregious policy” in the bill.

Democrats generally object to the omnibus because GOP Congressional leaders — at the behest of the White House — eliminated several House- and Senate-approved policy riders that would have prevented the Bush administration from outsourcing some federal jobs, instituting new overtime pay rules and going forward with new media ownership rules.

Daschle made his remarks on the omnibus at a joint press conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in which the two leaders took aim at the Republican leadership’s handling of the first session of the 108th Congress.

“We simply have different priorities,” said Pelosi. “Republicans held the door wide open for special interests and slammed it in the face of the public interest.”

Pelosi and Daschle assailed the GOP leadership in both chambers and the White House for what Daschle called “a year of lost opportunities, empty promises and broken trust.”

Specifically, they pointed to Republican opposition to increasing the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits as examples of the GOP’s failure to represent the American public.

Both also agreed that 2003 marked the “most partisan” year they had experienced in Congress.

Pelosi said the nearly three-hour-long House floor vote on the Medicare prescription drug bill was the most partisan moment she could remember, considering votes are traditionally from 10 to 15 minutes long.

Hoyer noted that when Vice President Cheney was in the House, he called the then-Democratic Speaker “‘a heavy-handed S.O.B.’ and he didn’t use initials” for holding open a vote for 25 minutes.

Pelosi added, “So what do you think two and a half hours makes it?”