The original plan looked fairly simple. After much wrath and acrimony, the cromnibus passed the House and moved on to the upper chamber. In order to comply with Senate rules, a five day spending extension would provide a bit more time to get business done and the vote would be held over until Monday. At that time, several people who love having face time with the cameras would make some impassioned speeches, some amendments would be demanded (and fail to pass or even get a vote) and the bill would be passed. The Senators would be able to take the weekend off, put in a few hours on Monday and then head home for the holidays, secure in the knowledge that the government would be funded for an extended period and everyone could work on wrapping their Christmas gifts.
But in a surprise development, some of McConnell’s junior members defied the agreement after he left.
Reid tried to get unanimous consent for an adjournment until Monday when there would be enough votes to end a filibuster, but Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, objected because Reid would not guarantee a vote on an amendment dealing with immigration funding.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also joined the objection, forcing the Senate to meet on Saturday.
Reid then announced to an almost empty chamber that the Senate will be in session beginning at noon Saturday.
Cruz and Lee want a vote on an amendment to defund executive amnesty now, rather than in February. Warren and Vitter want a vote on an amendment to strip out the campaign finance provisions. The problem is, if either of these amendments (or any others, for that matter) were to pass, the bill would have to go back to the House. That’s problematic because almost all of the House members have gone home. Both Reid and McConnell could have afforded to allow such amendment votes if they thought there were sufficient supporters of the overall cromnibus package to defeat them. But if either of them were to pass we would be right back to near midnight, crisis management mode. Reid’s procedural moves seem to have derailed the amendments question, at least for now. (And possible for good.)
So what will actually get done today? Reid will try to rail through a number of votes on some of Obama’s remaining nominees. Another good bet is that the five day spending extension will pass. That gives them most of this week to get things wrapped up with a bow and onto the President’s desk. Reid’s procedural moves last night may have killed any chance for amendment votes, but the members will supposedly be bringing up a variety of similar rules book maneuvers today to get everything back on the table. Then, on Monday, the big vote on ending debate will take place. We’re still getting hopeful notes from staffers on the Hill signaling that the votes are there to shut down the discussion and go to an up or down vote on the total bill, which would almost undoubtedly pass.
Turn on C-SPAN this afternoon if you’re the type who can’t resist the spectacle and excitement of a hundred dejected looking people trudging back and forth to vote on various arcane aspects of Robert’s Rules of Order. It should be breathtaking.