Reid Turns Next to Debt Ceiling Increase

Posted January 16, 2010 at 2:58pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to pass a $925 billion increase in the nation’s debt limit this week, but he will likely need to win some Republican support for a measure that is controversial among fiscal hawks.

Reid could garner the 60 votes he will likely need for passage if an amendment by Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to create a Congressionally appointed deficit commission is included in the final measure. The amendment, expected to be considered on the floor this week, has the support of fiscally conservative House Democrats but not President Barack Obama.

Congress passed a short-term debt limit bill late last year, but spending is expected to surpass that limit by mid-February.

The bill before the Senate this week, which the House has already approved, would raise the debt ceiling from $12.394 trillion to $13.029 trillion.

Also due for a floor vote is an amendment by Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. In remarks before the Geothermal Energy Association on Thursday, Reid said Murkowski’s amendment was “a highly political move— and could be damaging for broader climate change legislation later this year.

“If this Senator succeeds, it could keep Congress from working constructively in a bipartisan manner to pass clean energy legislation this year,— Reid said. “That’s why I will work hard to defeat this misguided amendment.—

Reid agreed to allow votes on a variety of amendments to the debt ceiling bill in exchange for Republicans allowing the short-term debt increase to pass just before Christmas.

The Senate, on recess since Dec. 24, is scheduled to return for a pro forma session Tuesday, with Members back to work in earnest Wednesday. Senators are also expected to vote this week on the judicial nomination of Beverly Martin, tapped for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Martin’s nomination has lagged on the executive calendar since September.