Recess Still a Ways Off

Posted July 28, 2008 at 12:17pm

The light at the end of the Senate tunnel is starting to appear, as Congress only has a few more days left before it leaves for summer break.

However, the exit is still a ways off because of the political bickering over the Democratic oil speculation bill.

Senate Republicans have pledged to block legislation unrelated to reducing gas prices and threatened to continue obstructing it unless Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) allows their amendments, most related to oil drilling, on the speculation bill.

If Republicans stick to their vow, it could be a very long week in which very little actually gets done.

A whiff of what’s to come occurred over the weekend when Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) moved to block the defense authorization bill on Saturday after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the housing bill. Hatch made it known that he was doing so in support of his Republican colleagues to offer amendments, though he did not totally agree with it.

Reid offered to allow an unlimited amount of amendments to the authorization bill, if only they had to do with issues related to the bill itself.

On Monday afternoon, lawmakers will be voting on a package of bills blocked by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), which has been dubbed the “Tomnibus” or “Coburn Omnibus.” Reid wrapped together an enormous slate of bills that Coburn has stalled worth well over $10 billion dollars that would crack down on child pornography, create a Justice Department agency for unsolved civil rights investigations, and establish a patient registry for Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Before the recess, Democrats would like to act on a tax-extender bill, which contains several proposals to entice Republicans. One would provide tax relief for those affected by the heavy rains in Iowa in hopes of wooing Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that he is working for that “magical combination” of 60 votes that would get the bill to passage.