Truancy Could Be Issue at Sunday Vote

Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:38am

Attendance at a rare Sunday vote this weekend could be spotty, with several Senate Republicans indicating that they don’t see their votes as decisive and do not plan to show.

The number of GOP lawmakers expected to forgo the Sunday procedural vote remains unclear, but aides and Senators alike said on Friday that the Conference isn’t putting a premium on attending. Republicans see the vote — set by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to consider a package of 160 public lands bills — as a slap in the face of bipartisanship in the early days of the 111th Congress.

Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), for one, is among the possible no-shows. “I’d be voting no, so it’s not important for me to be here.”

“I’m puzzled that Sen. Reid would start the year off with a Sunday vote,” Alexander added.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on Friday that while he will vote on Sunday, “I think there will be a number who could care less, and I don’t blame them.”

At issue is a package of otherwise noncontroversial lands bills being pushed by Reid but blocked by conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). The package has sparked a long-standing personal and political feud between Coburn and Reid.

Most Republicans support one or more of the bills in the package, but have largely stood by their conservative colleague, denouncing Reid’s repeated attempts to force the legislation through as an infringement on minority rights.

Reid’s decision to bring the lands package up as the Senate’s first order of business has infuriated many GOP lawmakers, who believe Reid is damaging efforts to start the 111th off on a positive note. In order for the lands package to move forward, Reid needs to win the support of 59 Senators, a potentially tall order given the 57 Democrats in his Conference.

One senior GOP aide explained that “the reality is it’s up to Harry Reid to get [the] votes, not us.”