Sunday Vote Could Spoil Early Comity

Posted January 8, 2009 at 2:26pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) threat to hold a Sunday vote appeared increasingly likely Thursday as neither Republicans nor Democrats signaled any desire to cut a deal over a package of 160 public lands bills that has languished on the chamber floor for more than a year. Republicans warned Thursday that Reid’s threat, which stems from a long-standing personal dispute with conservative gadfly Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), was likely to undermine hopes for bipartisanship in the early days of the 111th Congress. “There’s absolutely no reason to have a Sunday vote,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spokesman Don Stewart said. “It doesn’t help the mood. We’re calling for bipartisan things, not partisan things.” The fight between Reid and Coburn began more than a year ago when Coburn began using the chamber’s rules block the package of bills. McConnell and other Republicans — many of whom support one or more of the bills in the package — have largely stood by their conservative colleague, denouncing Reid’s repeated attempts to force the legislation through as attempts to limit the minority’s rights. But Reid has continuously rejected the GOP’s reasoning and argued that the bills must be passed before the chamber will move on to other business. “It’s an important bill for a lot of people around the country, and it’s important to pass in order to move ahead with the agenda,” said Jim Manley, Reid’s spokesman. Reid said during floor remarks he made earlier this week that the chamber would have a weekend vote, but the Majority Leader has issued similar threats in the past and rarely followed through. As of Thursday afternoon, however, the Senate was on course to take a procedural vote on Sunday. Coburn has been in talks with Reid’s office this week, and has maintained his objections to the bill while also requesting to offer amendments. Reid’s office has declined those requests, arguing that the bill has bipartisan support and is ready for passage.