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Senate Leaves Town, Braces For Busy July

Senators bolted from the Beltway heat Thursday for a weeklong recess following a fairly quiet June and bracing for a hectic July.The chamber Thursday approved the nomination of Harold Koh to be legal adviser of the State Department by a 62-35 vote.The chamber still has at least three dozen nominations to consider and could move on a handful of them following the weeklong Fourth of July break.But the nomination that will surely command the most time and attention will be that of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who is scheduled to appear before the Judiciary Committee on July 13 for a week of confirmation hearings.While the Judiciary panel considers President Barack Obama’s first pick for the nation’s highest court, the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panels will continue their work on a massive health care reform bill that remains the top priority for the president and Democrats in Congress.The Senate also began consideration of a host of amendments to the fiscal 2010 legislative branch appropriations bill Thursday.The bill — which funds Members’ offices and Congressional agencies — usually passes quickly and with bipartisan support. But on Tuesday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) objected to the unanimous consent of the spending bill, requiring Senate leaders to negotiate over what amendments could be offered.Senators began debate on the bill Thursday night but voted on only one motion before going out of session. That motion — from Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who heads the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch — tabled an amendment from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to reduce the bill’s spending to 2009 levels.The motion passed 65-31, leaving the Senate with the remaining four amendments to debate when they get back from recess.“As I’ve told everyone more than once, the next five weeks after we get back here is going to be jam-packed with stuff to do,— Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday as the Senate was wrapping up. “Members should understand that we’ll have votes on Mondays and Fridays.—Earlier Thursday, Reid outlined an ambitious summer agenda that includes passing health care reform and climate change bills, a host of appropriations measures and Sotomayor’s nomination. He also said he wants to tackle immigration reform this year — the issue was the topic of a bipartisan, bicameral meeting at the White House on Thursday — although he has not laid out a timeline for it.

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