By Alexander Bolton - 12/17/10 02:06 AM EST
Senate Democrats have given up on their plan to pass a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill in the face of unified Republican opposition.
The bill’s collapse will take with it more than 6,000 earmarks as well as more than $1 billion in funding for implementation of healthcare reform.
Democrats say nine Senate Republicans had pledged to back the bill but withdrew their support at the last moment under heavy pressure from their GOP colleagues.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) emphasized that Republicans helped put the bill together although they distanced themselves from it in recent days. He noted that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.), the ranking Republican on the panel, worked closely together on the bill.
“Though some of my Republican colleagues in recent days have publicly distanced themselves from the idea that [their] members have a role to play in the appropriations process, nearly all of them did nothing privately to withdraw their priorities from this bill,” Reid said on the floor Thursday evening.
Republican leaders and rank-and-file members had come under fire for hundreds of earmarks they inserted in the 1,924-page spending bill.
Cochran had 281 earmarks worth $561 million, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) had 48 earmarks worth $113 million and Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander had 47 earmarks worth $75 million.
McConnell said Republicans unified to block the legislation because Reid tried to pass it in the final days of the year, giving lawmakers little time to review it.
“This is the first time in modern history — the first time in modern history — that not a single appropriation bill went across the floor of the Senate. Not one,” McConnell said. “And so the Appropriations Committee members on a bipartisan basis did, indeed, do their job. The problem was the full Senate didn't do its job. And so what we ended up with, Mr. President, was this, this almost 2,000-page omnibus appropriation bill which we only got … yesterday.
“And this is precisely the kind of thing the American people have gotten tired of,” McConnell added.
Reid and McConnell will now negotiate a stop-gap spending measure to keep the federal government funded beyond Dec. 18, when current appropriations run out.
McConnell earlier this week introduced a continuing resolution to fund the government until Feb. 18.
By pulling the omnibus, Reid will spare Senate floor staff from having to read the entire bill aloud, a procedure that was expected to take 50 hours. Senate Republicans had vowed to force the reading of the bill to bring the Senate floor to a standstill until late Saturday.
While the defeat of the omnibus is a blow to Democrats, it will give them more time to complete the rest of the agenda, including the DREAM Act, repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and ratification of the New START Treaty.
Reid will schedule Saturday votes to quash GOP-led filibusters of the DREAM Act and “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, according to a Democratic aide.
The DREAM Act is expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. But Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), lead sponsor of a standalone measure to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Thursday he has 60 votes for the bill.