Senate Wraps Up for Summer

Posted August 1, 2008 at 11:37am

The Senate wrapped up its work for the summer on a somber note Thursday night, as lawmakers frustrated with the stalemate on energy leave with very little to boast about when they return home.

The Senate cleared two conference reports on higher education and consumer product safety by overwhelming margins, adding to a list of accomplishments that includes the recent passage and enactment of housing legislation.

But the Senate, like the House, came up empty on what both parties deemed the “No. 1 issue” — the high gasoline prices.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, tried to end the night on a more positive note, arguing that Republicans should move beyond their dissatisfaction with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and pass the defense authorization bill.

“This is the defense authorization bill. For heaven’s sake, can we not set aside the frustrations that we all have on this issue and at least support our troops and come together and unify behind our troops?” Levin asked, looking directly at Republicans. “Can we not at least set aside a time to take up the defense authorization bill, which is critically important?”

But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stuck to his guns and rallied his GOP troops to defeat Reid’s bid to move to the defense bill on a 51-39 vote. The Republican leader said the chamber “ought to stay on the No. 1 issue facing America.”

Even the adjournment vote came down to a political fight, as 40 Republicans voted against closing the summer recess. The motion passed 48-40.

The chamber will not officially adjourn until today and will hold pro forma sessions on Aug. 5, Aug. 8, Aug. 12, Aug. 15, Aug. 19, Aug. 22, Aug. 29, Sept. 2 and Sept. 5. The Senate is in session today, but no votes are expected.