Failed omnibus talks set up another working weekend for Senate

A final effort to avoid a weekend of votes fell apart Thursday evening when Senate Democratic and Republican leaders failed to reach agreement to consider an omnibus spending bill on Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a motion to cut off debate on a $447 billion appropriations conference report on Thursday night. As a result, the Senate will vote on the motion to end debate on Saturday and likely vote to pass the spending legislation on Sunday.

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The collapse in negotiations sets up the second consecutive working weekend for weary senators. Reid says he has fielded complaints from colleagues because of the nonstop pace. One colleague told the leader that she has not seen her family for several weeks, Reid reported earlier in the day.

Reid was forced to cancel a Saturday fundraiser in New Orleans with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Democratic consultant James Carville.

Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also failed to reach agreement on a proposal to vote on four healthcare-related amendments.

Reid proposed a Thursday evening vote on amendment sponsored by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

The Crapo amendment would have sent the healthcare bill back to committee to strip out all taxes on individuals who earn less than $200,000 and families earning less than $250,000.

The Baucus amendment is a side-by-side resolution to the Crapo measure.

The Dorgan amendment would allow the importation of cheaper drugs from foreign countries. The Lautenberg amendment is a side-by-side resolution to Dorgan’s measure that would make it more difficult to lift limits on drug importation.


McConnell objected to the consideration of four amendments on Thursday evening because he said the Lautenberg amendment was close to 100 pages long and Republicans were given only an hour to review it.

Reid countered that the amendment was based on legislation that Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) offered in the past that would require the secretary of Health and Human Services to certify that imported drugs posed no safety risks.

A Senate aide said Republicans objected for the additional reason that Reid requested votes on three Democratic amendments and one GOP measure, an uneven ratio.

The Senate will reconsider votes on the healthcare amendments on Friday. The chamber has not voted on a healthcare amendment since Tuesday.


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