Reid juggles hectic final week agenda

The Senate’s last few days of action before its summer break is shaping up to be a frenzied week of challenges for Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington McCain to support waiver for Mattis, Trump team says MORE (D-Nev.).

From cash-for-clunkers to the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to a bill that would benefit his home state, Reid is pushing an agenda that will attempt to beat the clock, resist Republican slow-down attempts and appease several unhappy members of his party.

ADVERTISEMENT
The $2 billion cash infusion granted Friday by the House to the overwhelmed cash-for-clunkers program must be accepted by the Senate this week without amendments — or it won’t be signed into law until September.

The House has adjourned for its summer recess, and some Senate lawmakers want to change the bill, which will likely force Reid into a days-long cloture process.

The Obama administration is applying pressure on the Senate to pass the House bill. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that unless the program gets additional funding soon, “it’s unlikely that we’ll make it to the weekend with a program that can continue.”

Meanwhile, Republicans will be pushing for several days of floor debate on the Sotomayor nomination, raising concerns about her judicial record.

Sotomayor will likely attract between 65 and 75 votes later this week, becoming the first Hispanic to serve on the high court.

Reid, who is facing reelection next year, is hoping to return to Nevada this summer with a travel-promotion bill that will boost his state’s economy. Reid tried to move the legislation earlier this year, but it fell short in a floor vote.

Amid all this activity, the Senate is also aiming to pass an agricultural-spending bill.

Reid expressed optimism on Monday — and delivered a warning shot to senators who are looking to leave town on Thursday.

“We can get to all of this,” Reid told The Hill on Monday. “But we may not finish on Thursday night like some people want to.”

Senior Democratic aides know they’re in for a challenge, using words like “difficult” and “aggressive” to describe this week’s agenda. But they say it can get done, even with minimal cooperation from the GOP and the potential of a Friday or Saturday vote.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said his party will push a go-slow approach on cash-for-clunkers so that the program’s solvency and effectiveness can be examined. Without knowing how many claims are still in the pipeline, Kyl suggested a similar mistake could be made again.

“We need to have a time-out to see how much money was spent,” Kyl said. “Before you authorize more money, wouldn’t you like to know how much you’ve spent and how it took to spend it, and what kind of things you might want to do to modify it?”

Two senior GOP aides said Republicans will likely object to rushing any more money for the program, as might several Democrats.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Reid’s in a tough spot on this one,” said one aide. “This will not be a quick up-or-down vote.”

The GOP staffers pointed to Democrats like Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinOvernight Defense: Armed Services chairman's hopes for Trump | Senators seek to change Saudi 9/11 bill | Palin reportedly considered for VA chief Lawmakers praise defense bill's National Guard bonus fix CIA head warns Trump: Undermining Iran deal would be 'disastrous' MORE of California, Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillDefense bill tackles retaliation against military sex assault victims Red-state Dems face tough votes on Trump picks Vulnerable Dems ready to work with Trump MORE of Missouri and Mark WarnerMark WarnerOvernight Cybersecurity: Last-ditch effort to stop expanded hacking powers fails Intel Dems push for info on Russia and election be declassified Senate Dems push Obama for info on Russian election interference MORE of Virginia, who in recent days have all expressed skepticism about the program. However, Feinstein and GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump Cornyn: ‘Virtual certainty’ Sessions and Price will be confirmed Trump's wrong to pick Bannon or Sessions for anything MORE (Maine) indicated on Monday evening they will support the measure. Warner wants the program to have higher mileage requirements while McCaskill has sounded skeptical about how it will be funded.

But other Democrats strike a common refrain: The sudden demand on the cash-for-clunkers program proves it is working.

“The president’s for it. I’m for it. It’s just a very unusual kind of government program that people have a hard time adjusting to,” said Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.). “But it’s doing good.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington Confirm Scott Palk for the Western District of Oklahoma MORE (R-Ky.) tied the cash-for-clunkers program to healthcare in a floor speech Monday, saying the program’s sudden need for cash proves “the administration’s tendency to miss the mark on economic estimates.”

“There’s a pattern here, a pattern that amounts to an argument — and a very strong argument at that: When the administration comes bearing estimates, it’s not a bad idea to look for a second opinion. All the more so if they say they’re in a hurry,” McConnell said.

In an unexpected move, Reid on Monday raised the issue of right-wing attacks against President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama promotes bipartisan cures bill Confirm Scott Palk for the Western District of Oklahoma Dean drifts behind in DNC race MORE’s citizenship as an example of Republican attempts to derail the Democratic agenda. In his floor speech, Reid referred to it as “an artificial controversy.

He added the shadowy attack on Obama “ignores the undeniable and proven fact that President Obama was born in the United States.”

“We can’t blame people for wondering why, with an issue as important as healthcare now before us, bipartisan consensus sometimes seem so elusive,” Reid said. “I say to them, this extreme brand of strategy and the extreme tactics that come with it are what we have to contend with.”