Senate makes plans to return Thursday after Christmas for cliff

The death of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) has complicated efforts by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to finish the Senate’s work by year’s end.

Senators had thought Reid would make them work through the weekend before Christmas to pass an emergency spending bill for the victims of Hurricane Sandy and reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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Instead, senators will leave from the Capitol at 10:30 Saturday morning to fly to Hawaii for Inouye’s funeral, which is scheduled for Sunday, according to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who is attending the service.

Reid will “probably” fly to Hawaii to attend Inouye’s funeral as well, according to a Democratic aide. Senators are expected to fly back on Sunday night, the aide said.

The Senate will return to session on Thursday, Dec.  27, a few days before the Bush-era tax rates expire and $110 billion in automatic spending cuts begin to take effect.

Reid said Thursday morning he would try to get as much work done on the Hurricane Sandy relief bill and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as possible before leaving. Reid said he also intends to pass the final defense authorization bill before Christmas.

“We’re also hopeful that we can complete the extremely important defense authorization bill today, and we’re moving forward on FISA today,” he said.

“We will need everyone to pay attention, as they always do, but maybe more so today because a lot of things are going on here and people need to understand we have things to do,” he said. “We want to be able to get home for a few days for Christmas, even though we will be back the Thursday after Christmas.”

Inouye will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda until 8 p.m. Thursday for public viewing.

His casket will depart the Rotunda and be escorted to the Washington National Cathedral Friday for a public memorial service at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

On Saturday, he will arrive in his home state at 8 p.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time.

The final public service will be held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at 10 a.m. Sunday.