Senate's January agenda grows

The Senate agenda for January keeps growing, as lawmakers run out of time to accomplish things before adjourning for the holiday.

Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the floor Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised them a vote the first week the Senate is back in January on a bill to stop flood insurance rate increases.

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“I can only hope that we vote as soon as possible when we come back,” Landrieu said. “This is serious for the whole country.”

Flood insurance rates are expected to dramatically increase in some regions at the start of the new year, but her bill would put a moratorium on the increase until the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducts an affordability study, or Congress comes up with another solution to keep the program solvent — whichever comes first.

Another bill mentioned on the Senate floor Thursday was the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act from Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Reid already tried to call up their bill in August, but votes were postponed when Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) refused to allow any amendments to the bill until his amendment was considered.

Shaheen and Portman said they’d be back on the floor to talk about their energy efficiency bill in January because the leader had told them that he wants to try again.

“It looks like we’ll have a good shot at moving this early next year,” Portman said.

Those two bills are in addition to a long list Reid has already announced he wants to consider, including an extension of unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage and a spending bill to keep the government open.

The Senate is likely to be consumed by work on the omnibus appropriations bill, which must be proposed and passed by Jan. 15 or else the government could shutdown again.

The Senate is scheduled to return from Christmas break on Jan. 6, leaving little time to accomplish all of these goals, especially if Republicans continue to run out the procedural clock on all votes.

Republicans have refused to yield back any debate time as a protest to Democrats unilaterally changing the filibuster rules last month.