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Republicans Suggest Reid Wants to Avoid Votes for Fundraiser

Senate Republicans are lambasting Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) surprise decision to try to avoid holding votes this weekend, leveling accusations that Reid may be trying to clear the decks so he can travel to New Orleans for a fundraiser on Saturday.

Despite forcing the chamber to remain in session last weekend and repeatedly vowing to hold votes on Saturdays and Sundays until Christmas, Reid suddenly reversed course Thursday morning when he attempted to gain unanimous consent to move an omnibus bill in order to avoid weekend votes. Reid is up for re-election in 2010.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected the idea of not holding votes this weekend out of hand, arguing the chamber should continue its work on the health care reform bill.

“The Majority Leader said we’d be working every weekend. We take him at his word. We expect to be here this weekend — and we look forward to it,— McConnell said, adding that, “We have amendments. We want votes. We’ve been waiting since Tuesday to have more votes. We’re eager to continue this debate.—

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has become increasingly combative over the past several weeks, was even harsher in his criticism.

“The Majority Leader wants us to go out for the weekend, after keeping us in all last weekend. And here we have an unspecified proposal that none of us know the details of the cost. So I’m supposed to go home to Arizona this weekend and say, ‘My friends, we’ve been working on health care for a year and guess what. I can tell you nothing?’ We need to stay in,— McCain said.

Republicans were clearly pinning Reid’s move on the fact that the Majority Leader has a major fundraising event planned in New Orleans this weekend.

“I know New Orleans is very nice this time of year, but perhaps we ought to stay here and get this job done,— McCain said in a thinly veiled reference to Reid’s trip.

A senior GOP aide, however, was more direct in his criticism: “Just when you think the Majority Leader couldn’t possibly create a worse public perception of what Democrats are doing up here, he suggests shutting down the Senate two weeks after the “Louisiana purchase— so he can go to a fundraiser in New Orleans.—

Republicans also warned privately that they will not make it easy on Reid if he continues to push for no votes this weekend. One GOP leadership aide said Republicans will likely force Reid to use a motion to adjourn if he does not want to hold votes — a process that would require at least one roll-call vote.

“If he wants to go to this fundraiser, he’s going to have to move to adjourn,— the aide warned.

Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau said that Reid will not be attending the New Orleans fundraiser, and questioned Republicans’ reaction.

“Is that where one of Sen. McCain’s eight homes is? Sen. Reid plans on being here this weekend to move this debate forward. But let’s be honest, Republicans have no desire to legislate on this bill — only to delay, deny and derail health reform. They’ve said as much themselves. Today’s feigned outrage is just a response to the pressure Senate Republicans have been receiving from Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele and the rest of their ultra-right base,— Mollineau said.

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