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Senate Expects to Wrap Up Spending Bill Thursday Evening

As the Senate appeared set to pass an omnibus appropriations package Thursday evening, Republican leaders touted their ability to complete the $390 billion measure at what passes for warp speed in that chamber.

Budget Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.) boasted that it took the Senate almost five weeks to pass just the 2002 Interior appropriations bill, while the 108th Congress was about to dispense with 11 spending measures in under two weeks. However, Congress has been struggling to pass the appropriations bills since last fall, because the current fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2002.

Eleven legislative days into the new Congress the Senate has adopted an organizing resolution, approved Tom Ridge as secretary of Homeland Security, tackled unemployment insurance and was on the verge of passing the omnibus, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said.

Once the spending bill passes, “we’ll have had a very productive 108th Congress so far,” he said.

To that end, Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) had reigned in debate on the Senate floor, limiting all amendment votes to 10 minutes.

“Ten minutes means 10 minutes,” he said as the Senate voted on a handful of amendments from a pared-down list that originally numbered 245.

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