Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will force readings of both a nuclear arms treaty and $1.1 trillion spending bill that could eat up hours of the remaining lame-duck Congress.
DeMint will invoke a senatorial privilege to ask that texts of both the New START Treaty and the 2011 omnibus spending bill be read aloud on the Senate floor.
The readings could take seven to 12 hours to verbalize the START Treaty, while the omnibus could take 40 to 60 hours, according to a spokesman for DeMint.
The readings could eat up a substantial amount of time in the closing days of the lame-duck Congress, in which Senate Democrats are racing against the clock to pass through a number of priorities. Democrats hope to pass a tax-cut bill, on which they'll vote Wednesday afternoon, along with a repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," the START Treaty and the DREAM Act immigration bill.
"This is a new low in putting political stunts ahead of our national security, and it is exactly the kind of Washington game-playing that the American people are sick of," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs shot back in a strongly-worded statement. "While some express concern that the Senate doesn’t have time to debate the Treaty, Senator DeMint wants to waste 12 hours to read the text of a treaty that has been available to every member of the Senate and the public for more than eight months."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "hoped" in a floor speech Wednesday that DeMint would not force a full reading, calling the move a "colossal waste of time."
Floor readings of measures before the Senate are typically waived by unanimous consent without any objections. But if a senator were to require that lengthy bills be read, the delay could take hours. (The omnibus is over 1,900 pages.)
DeMint's maneuver will no doubt cause a headache for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as he figures out how to fit all of the remaining legislative items into the waning days of the lame duck. Lawmakers had been set to leave Washington on Friday, but that deadline appears flimsy at this point. Reid had sought to avoid working the week of the Christmas holiday, as lawmakers had done last year, and has now threatened work after the holidays if necessary.
That session was delayed after a similar tactic last year by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who'd forced a lengthy reading of an amendment to the healthcare reform bill that led to the withdrawal of that amendment.
DeMint's move earned quick support from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
"Sen. DeMint is right to demand the reading of the 2,000 page earmark filled spending bill. Senate GOP should stop the bill," Gingrich wrote on Twitter. Both DeMint and Gingrich are rumored to be possible candidates for president in 2012.
-- Jordan Fabian contributed to this post
This post was updated at 10:00 a.m. and 12:23 p.m.