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No Rest For the Weary... Senators

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) apparently likes carrots more than sticks.

Turning the traditional threat about Congressional recesses on its head, Reid issued an entirely different kind of recess proffer yesterday on the floor. He offered to wrap things up lickety-split this week and send all 100 senators home early, maybe even a full week ahead of schedule, for the planned week long Presidents Day recess scheduled to begin Feb. 16.

"I announce that if we are able to do that -- dispose of these three items I have mentioned -- this week, or whenever we finish them, then we would begin the Presidents Day recess at the conclusion of this week," Reid said.

For years, Senate leaders have been doing the exact opposite. They normally threaten to keep on working and deny senators their scheduled recess unless they bend to the leader's will. A quick search of my prior work at Roll Call, the Capitol Briefing's alma mater, discovered this headline: "Daschle: Recess in Peril" (subscription required).

These threats, as they've been administered in the past, are generally taken with a political grain of salt by senators whose legislative body clocks are set by the recess schedule, which in recent years has been synchronized with federal and religious holidays.

The threats were generally ignored, and almost always the recess went off as scheduled.

So the Democratic leadership laid a different recess trap, one that could have been tempting for Republicans. After all, since the first day of the 110th Congress, the Senate has been in session five straight weeks, with another week and a half to go before the recess.

According to Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), he personally offered the extra week of recess to his counterpart, GOP Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

"Is there some kind of trick to this?" replied a bemused Lott, according to Durbin.

"No," Durbin said, "but present it to your conference and see what the response is."

When Reid brought up the same offer on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stood his ground and refused to allow Reid to offer the Warner-Levin resolution opposing President Bush on Iraq unless McConnell and his side got to offer their resolution in support of the troops as drafted by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) -- effectively rejecting Reid's suggestion that the Senate move quickly through its business in order to take the early recess.

McConnell also said he would decline the offer because it would mean quickly passing, with almost no debate, a $463.5 billion appropriations measure that would fund most of the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year.

"What my good friend, the majority leader, is suggesting that we take up a continuing resolution of 11 appropriations bill, with no amendments whatsoever, and he offers as an enticement an extra week off," McConnell countered. "This is completely unacceptable."

Something tells us the roughly 30,000 staffers on Capitol Hill would beg to differ with the minority leader's assessment on that.

By Paul Kane  |  February 7, 2007; 4:12 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Thanks to PK for your analysis of what the hell is going on in the senate.

Your description fits in with what i was thinking looks like a game of chicken, in which the senate dem leadership knows it doesn't have the 60, and so they must chicken out, and the repubs see it and play it for all it's worth.

erikw in vermont 1st time at this blog

Posted by: Erik W.65 | February 7, 2007 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Does Sen. Connell really think that a week of spouting crap will substantially improve the budget bill or is this just to have another week for some pet earmarks?

Posted by: mickle1 | February 8, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Better yet - keep them on permanent vacation - and take Grandma Pelosi with you so she can get a connecting flight.

Posted by: HILLARYisAshemale | February 8, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

This may be a naive question but are there really 30,000 Staffers on the hill?

Posted by: Michigan Mike | February 8, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse


The Senate is going to do some voting on six nominees' names presented today. They're mostly judges who will be heading up federal district courts around the country. There's also one person who needs to be appointed to the Department of the Interior.

Yesterday -- Monday, 2/12 --they convened at 1 pm and quit work at 7:22 pm. Didn't vote on anything. But there apparently is some ongoing work on the joint resolution that funds the country -- like the budget.

Today, they convened at 10 am. The junior senator from Tennessee is selected to read George Washington's Farewell Address on February 26, 2007. All eyes and ears will be on this speech, I'm sure.

In the meantime, there's a motion to close debate (cloture) on the budget resolution. They have until 2:15 to say whatever they're going to say about the budget and other matters. Then they apparently take a little mini-break because at 2:30 today they will get ready to begin to vote to close debate.

Then they'll probably adjourn and go off to do something else.

They do have some non-legislative time boxed in from February 19 - 23. Guess that's when we'll see all the presidential wanabees running around New Hampshire and Iowa.

After all, we have to get in a hurry. The election is about 19 months away.

They have to get out there and raise money. Lotsa money. And connect with the voters and taxpayers. And shake a lot of hands. And make at least a couple more trips to Iraq.

Maybe to back to Peru and see if they missed anything on the first trip to examine the security systems of the ancient Incans.

Then back to Washington, D.C. by way of Caifornia to recuperate from jetlag.

Speaking of California, did you know that is California were a country, it would be the 5th richest in the world? Just in case you ever wondered why all the politicos go to California during their campaigns.

And the population of California is 31,000,000 people.

As for me, I have decided that I am not going to vote for anybody who is campaigning while holding an active office. I think all elected persons need to realize that a full-time job in the United States is 2,000 hours a year.

That does not include flying off on junkets to places all around the world at taxpayers expense. Or going to cocktail parties or dinner parties, for Pete's sake. It certainly does not include going on ski trips with your favorite lobbyists. I personally do not consider it a "business discussion" when you are talking about how to rip off the taxpayers in your district. Just being there with lobbyists is ripping off taxpayers!

And if it just so happens that you somehow wrested the "power" to box out four or five days on the calendar so you can go off and do other things besides being in the halls of congress like you were elected to do (so you could govern), then I'm not going to vote for you.

You are AWOL. And you need to get back to the job of running this country.

It's a very big country and it's super complicated. You shouldn't think you can do it on a part-time basis.


Posted by: Jane Reinheimer | February 13, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

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