Small-business bill shelved after it fails to clear hurdle

A long-stalled small-business bill faltered Wednesday as Republicans voted to thwart the measure.

The effort to invoke cloture on a Small Business Administration (SBA) funding bill fell 8 votes short in a 52-44 roll call. Republicans balked at proceeding on the bill, claiming Democratic leaders blocked their amendments. 

The legislation, which has been pending on the Senate floor for weeks, attracted 187 requests for amendments.

Republicans complained on the floor prior to the vote that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had not kept a promise made earlier in the year to allow an open amendment process on all legislation.


McConnell fires opening round in debt-ceiling debate

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fired the opening shots Wednesday in the coming battle over raising the nation's debt ceiling.

In his remarks, McConnell signaled that Republicans would only vote to lift the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling in exchange for deep and permanent cuts in government spending. 

"A growing number of people now recognize that the upcoming vote on the debt limit provides us with the single best opportunity we have to avoid this crisis before it strikes," said McConnell. 

"There isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t vowed to do everything in our power to prevent the next crisis from happening, and that’s why the only way we can claim we’ve actually done something meaningful in this debate is to insist on meaningful reforms as the price of our vote," he said. 

McConnell warned that if the country doesn't manage to corral its debt, another serious financial crisis could strike soon. 


Long-stalled small-business bill faces crucial test Wednesday

The Senate on Wednesday will vote on whether to move forward with the Small Business Administration (SBA) funding bill, a measure that has created fits for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). 

The legislation has attracted 187 requests for amendments from senators from both parties, of which only about two dozen pertain to the underlying bill, which — unlike some amendments — is not controversial.

Reid complained both Monday and Tuesday that some Republican senators, most notably Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), were holding the legislation hostage in an attempt to get votes on amendments purely for symbolic purposes. In an attempt to limit debate and force senators to come to an agreement on which amendments will see a vote, Reid filed for cloture on the bill Monday evening.


Senate approves bin Laden resolution honoring Obama, Bush

The Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution hailing those responsible for killing Osama bin Laden. 

The resolution hashed out by leaders in both parties names both President Obama and former President George W. Bush, as well as members of the civilian government, military and intelligence community for their work in finding bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. special operations forces on Sunday. 

The resolution declares "the death of Osama bin Laden represents a measure of justice and relief for the families and friends of the nearly 3,000 men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001."

To reflect the symbolic importance of the vote, senators each individually rose and cast their vote in favor of the resolution when they were called, a formality the Senate rarely uses. 

The vote was 97-0 with only Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Ha.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) missing the vote. Former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) resigned from the Senate on Monday and has not yet been replaced.


McCain praises Obama’s ‘courage’ for ordering assault that killed bin Laden

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) praised his former rival for the presidency for ordering an assault team strike instead of an air raid in the attack on Osama bin Laden's compound. 

McCain said President Obama showed "courage" in his decision on Sunday's attack that resulted in bin Laden's death.

“I specifically want to credit the president with ordering an air-borne assault by ground forces rather than aerial bombardment," McCain said on the Senate floor.  "It would have been a lot easier to simply turn bin Laden's compound into a smoldering crater, but it would have denied us the certainty we now have that bin Laden is dead.


Senate to vote Tuesday on bin Laden resolution

The Senate will vote on a resolution at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday to honor members of the military and intelligence community involved in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.  

The resolution, crafted by Senate leaders in both parties on Monday afternoon, is expected to honor both President Obama and former President George W. Bush for directing the nearly decade-long hunt for bin Laden.

According to Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) spokesman, Jon Summers, senators will be seated at their desks in the chamber for the vote, a fairly rare ceremonial move that signifies the gravity of the vote. 

Summers announced the timing of the vote in a post on Twitter:

"Sen 2 vote @ 3:30 on resolution honoring servicemen & intelligence comm on mission that killed Osama bin Laden. Sens will be seated @ desks"

—Alexander Bolton contributed to this story.


Senate’s CIA briefing on bin Laden set for 5 p.m.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta will hold a classified briefing for senators at 5 p.m. Tuesday on the U.S. forces killing of Osama bin Laden, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

President Obama announced Sunday evening bin Laden was shot to death in a firefight in a compound about 30 miles from Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad.

Senators and administration officials have questioned whether Pakistani intelligence forces or the military knew bin Laden was hiding in the compound. The U.S. has provided billions in aid to that country since 9/11 in return for cooperation in the fight against terror.

Panetta will brief House lawmakers earlier in the afternoon.


Sen. Corker questions Pakistan's cooperation on bin Laden killing

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Monday asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for more details on how much cooperation the U.S. received from Pakistan in locating and carrying out the operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this week.

In his letter, Corker questioned whether Pakistan might have been holding back on information about bin Laden's whereabouts, given that he was so close to Pakistan's capital.

"As I understand from President Obama's speech last evening, the Pakistanis provided some cooperation in the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden," Corker wrote. "That said, the discovery that bin Laden was living in comfortable surroundings merely 35 miles from Islamabad calls into question whether or not the Pakistanis had knowledge that he was there and did not share that knowledge. The claim had been he was difficult to find because he was hiding in the mountains.

"I hope that in the coming days you will provide details as to the extent of the cooperation received from the Pakistanis and their role in the final operation," he added.


Reid files cloture on small-business bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the Small Business Administration (SBA) funding bill Monday after he was unable to reach an agreement with Republicans.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) has held up the legislation by demanding a vote on an amendment that would change the way regulations affecting small businesses are issued.

By filing cloture, Reid will force a vote later this week that will determine whether the legislation will proceed for final passage.

“We have had this small-business bill on the floor for weeks,” Reid complained on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. “Each time we think we can see a way to close this, my friends on the other side of aisle come forward with other amendments making it impossible for us to move forward.”

In a deal earlier this year, Reid agreed to allow a more open amendment process on the Senate floor in exchange for a reduction in holds and filibusters from the GOP.