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.
"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.
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