Reid Threatens Sunday Votes

Posted January 7, 2009 at 11:52am

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) picked up his war against conservative gadfly Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Wednesday, informing the chamber that he would force votes on Sunday because Coburn has refused to lift his objections to a set of public lands bills.

“Because of a Senator’s not allowing us to move forward on this legislation last night, and throwing every procedural hurdle in the way of these bills … we’re going to have a vote Sunday morning here in the Senate,” Reid said.

For more than a year, Reid has waged an increasingly personal fight against Coburn over the Oklahoman’s use of Senate rules to hold up dozens of relatively noncontroversial bills, including the public lands package.

Several times during the 110th Congress, Reid threatened to use Senate rules to bypass Coburn’s holds on the legislation, and he has packaged the bills Coburn objects to in such a way as to ensure as many Republicans as possible have a stake in their passage.

Reid also has repeatedly used the threat of late-night and weekend sessions to try to pressure Coburn’s GOP colleagues to abandon him.

But those efforts have largely failed as Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have rallied around Coburn, defending what they see as a fundamental right of the minority to filibuster legislation.

It is unclear whether Reid will actually make good on his promise of weekend votes this time — he has frequently made similar but ultimately unfulfilled threats.

Nevertheless, his decision to resume his fight with Coburn so quickly in the 111th Congress, even as President-elect Barack Obama is looking to set a more civil tone in Washington, could be an early marker that partisanship will continue in the Senate this year.