House suspends votes this week, Senate cancels Wednesday votes due to snow

Washington’s latest snowstorm forced the House to cancel its voting schedule for the rest of the week, while the Senate voted Tuesday but canceled Wednesday's votes.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that votes in the Senate this week are unlikely because senators are having trouble catching flights to the Capital.
 

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“I would doubt there will be any votes this week,” Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday night. “It appears, what I’ve been able to hear, that people now can’t get planes to get here, and they’re having trouble getting planes out of here.”

Fifteen senators missed votes on Tuesday and Democrats would likely not have enough support to pass a jobs bill by Friday, as Reid had hoped.
 
Reid said Democrats would hold a special meeting on jobs legislation Thursday at 12:30 pm and urged all members of his conference to attend.

Earlier Tuesday, Reid moved up the Senate’s vote schedule from 5 p.m. to 4 p.m. to allow senators time to reach their Washington residences, and said he “would rather not” be in session on Wednesday.

The Senate was sparsely attended Tuesday, with only a handful of senators speaking on the chamber floor about the controversial nomination of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Aides were scarce and many reporters and chamber clerks were absent as well.

In the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that after consulting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), it became clear that Tuesday's snowstorm was preventing too many members from returning to Washington.

Hoyer said that the airlines more or less made the decision for House leaders. Airlines have already cancelled hundreds of flights as the second major storm in less than a week made its way eastward.

Forecasts predict another 10 to 20 inches could be dumped on the Capitol Tuesday evening and into Wednesday.

The Senate is scheduled to be out of session next week for a week-long President's Day recess.

The House also will keep to its scheduled recess next week, meaning the next House vote will be the following week.

Hoyer — one of a handful of members in the Capitol — told reporters Tuesday morning that he planned to move scheduled votes up a day to Monday, Feb. 22. He added that it was possible that the House would meet on Friday, Feb. 19.

Despite having just returned from a bipartisan White House meeting to discuss the economy, jobs and healthcare, the first three questions that Hoyer fielded were about the back-to-back storms, and about road conditions and snow removal.

Asked if there would be a need for federal aid for the District, Hoyer said; "There may be. After all, this is the federal city.”

The House will stay in session and vote on Friday, Feb. 26, to make up for lost time. This will give lawmakers sufficient time to tackle "a jobs bill and other critical measures," Hoyer said in a statement.


Many DC attractions, including the Smithsonian and the Capitol Visitor Center, are closed. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced Reagan National and Dulles International airports will not be operating flights on Wednesday. DC’s Metro service operated on a limited basis on Tuesday and its above-ground stations will be closed on Wednesday.  Federal government offices will be shut down for a third day in a row on Wednesday. The White House canceled Wednesday's press briefing.

Senators handled the poor weather with humor at their 4 p.m. vote on Tuesday. Many said they never left Washington over the weekend, and were snowed in with the rest of the local population.

"This is the first time I've walked outside in five days," said Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.V.).

"I had a group in town from Mississippi, and I asked them why they came during the snowstorm," said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). "They said they wanted to see it. Apparently it was exciting for them."

Senators from cold-weather states said they weren't impressed with the snowfall.

"This is nothing compared to Alaska," said Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). "It's just not that bad."

"I feel at home," joked Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

And several lawmakers took to the social networking website Twitter to discuss their experiences with the DC weather.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted: “Bad weather. Took 12hrs to fly bk DC. DCA shut down. Had fly BWI. Slept in office so b on Hill for CNBC intrvu 7am in 20min.”

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) tweeted early Tuesday: “Votes canceled today for the House..politicians not in Washington = your pocketbook is safe. You agree?”

Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) tweeted: “Got out of DC last week, but came back yesterday ready to work. I’m from AZ so help me out - is it Snowpocolypse or Snowmageddon?”

And Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) used the snowstorm to make a political jab, tweeting: “It's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle.’”

-- Alexander Bolton and Jordan Fabian contributed to this article.

-- This article was originally posted at 3:27 p.m. and updated at 5:22 p.m.

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