Reid Declares Long To-Do List Before Senate’s August Recess

Posted August 2, 2010 at 2:47pm

The Senate will begin debating Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination on Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced.

“We’re going to start the Kagan nomination in the morning,” the Nevada Democrat said Monday after the chamber gaveled into session.

Reid’s announcement followed a meeting with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but it came before he could notify Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) of the schedule. But, Reid said, “We should be ready to start that in the morning.”

Kagan’s nomination has the support of several Republicans and is expected to win Senate approval later this week.

Reid ticked off a list of legislative priorities he hopes to clear before the Senate starts its August recess. He said, “we’re pretty close to having an agreement” on the small-business jobs bill that has repeatedly been blocked by Republicans. Reid suggested Monday that the chamber could “complete that matter before we leave here.”

Monday night’s procedural motion on a $26.1 billion funding measure for education and state Medicaid programs will likely fail, clearing the way for the busy week Reid outlined on the floor. McConnell blasted the measure for adding to the deficit and dubbed it a second stimulus pushed only for electoral gain.

“Let’s be clear: This bill is a brazen attempt to funnel more money to the public employee unions before an election at a moment of record deficits and debt and to set the stage for a massive tax hike before the end of the year,” McConnell said.

Anticipating the negative vote, Reid blasted Republicans for potentially blocking the funding measure and slow-walking other priorities.

“Unfortunately, most of what we’ve accomplished has taken longer than it should have,” he said. “The minority has made it clear it will say ‘no,’ no matter the question, no matter who suffers and no matter how much of the American people’s time they waste.”

Dueling energy proposals from both sides are expected to come up this week, although neither is expected to succeed. Reid’s scaled-back measure was crafted after Democrats could not coalesce behind a more comprehensive approach, and the smaller bill has not won the enthusiastic support of the caucus. Reid, however, has maintained that the measure is part of a broader energy platform and vowed to force a vote before the August recess as a first step in that effort.

The chamber also could take up a child nutrition measure that Agriculture Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has been pushing as well as a number of nominations this week.

Aides said it was unclear which nominations might be considered or how many could win approval before the chamber adjourns for its five-week August recess. Republicans are still reeling from President Barack Obama’s July Fourth recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and have not been enthusiastic ever since to help clear other pending names.

Looking to the week ahead, Reid also announced, “We have to work on the defense authorization bill,” and said he wanted to line up action on that stalled measure for September. The defense authorization includes language repealing the military’s controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay servicemembers. The House passed its version in May, and interest groups have pushed to ensure the Senate takes action before the midterm elections.