Reid pulls $1.1T omnibus spending bill

Senate Republicans claim win

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nev., holds a copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nev., holds a copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Senate Democrats conceded defeat Thursday and pulled their $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with earmarks from the chamber floor, stymied by Republicans who unified to block the massive bill in the final days of a contentious session of Congress.

Angered at what happened, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said nine Republicans, who had earlier promised to vote for the bill, had withdrawn their support in the last 24 hours. And he berated fellow lawmakers for ceding spending authority to the executive branch.

But Republicans said one lesson they learned from last month’s election that big spending bills - in this case, a 1,924-page measure Democrats produced just two days earlier - shouldn’t be jammed through the chamber with short-circuited debate.

“The reason he doesn’t have the votes is because members on this side of the aisle increasingly felt concerned about the way we do business,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Instead of the full-year spending bill, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Reid said they will work on a “continuing resolution” to keep the government running into the new year.

The stunning turn of events - which was about as much drama as the Senate floor has seen in years - undercuts President Obama, whose White House on Thursday had backed the omnibus spending bill as the best of a bad lot of options.

That had marked a reversal from earlier this year, when Mr. Obama had decried pork-laden bills and had even vowed to veto a bill that included funding for an alternate production line for an engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - both of which were included in the spending bill.

After withdrawing his own spending bill, Mr. Reid instead scheduled showdown votes for Saturday on the Dream Act, which would legalize hundreds of thousands of illegal-immigrant children and young adults, and on repeal of the military’s policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.

Both of those measures have passed the House in recent days, and if they survive Republican-led filibusters and pass the Senate, they would go straight to Mr. Obama for his signature.

The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has a greater chance of passing than the immigration legislation.

House lawmakers already have passed their own version of a continuing resolution. Theirs would fund the government through Sept. 30 at 2010 levels, about $16 billion less than the Senate’s massive spending bill that died Thursday night.

Democrats are already more than 2 1/2 months overdue for producing the 2011 spending bills, since the fiscal year began Oct. 1. A short-term funding bill would push decisions off until next year, when Republicans will control the House and have greater numbers in the Senate, increasing their leverage.

A key battle has been over earmarks, which represent less than 1 percent of discretionary spending, but have become a powerful symbol of excessive government. Since the elections, both House and Senate Republicans have voted to impose temporary bans on new earmark requests in the coming year.

But Mr. Reid defended them as the basic function of Congress.

“That’s our job. That’s what we’re supposed to do,” he said as he chastised fellow senators who, while having requested pork-barrel spending earlier this year, decried their inclusion in the spending bill.

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About the Author
Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.

Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...

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