Senate Democrats plan jobs talk, Thursday session despite storm

Senate Democratic leaders ended Wednesday still planning to plow ahead with a session on Thursday despite a blizzard blanketing the Washington area.

No votes are scheduled on Thursday, but Democrats still plan to hold their weekly caucus lunch, which was rescheduled from Tuesday.

“As of now, yes we're on tomorrow,” one senior leadership aide said

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Democrats at the lunch are expected to talk about a jobs package being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Reid had hoped the Senate would act before the end of the week, but those plans were put on hold after a number of senators experienced trouble in getting to Washington. Reid on Tuesday evening said he doubted there would be more votes this week.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, flights at all three area airports remained canceled, and officials were unsure about Thursday.

Some Senate committee hearings and meetings scheduled for Thursday were canceled on Wednesday, including a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that was to include testimony on the State Department's 2011 budget request from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as a budget hearing by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Snow earlier this week also forced the postponement of an Armed Services Committee hearing on the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays serving openly in the military.

As for Friday, one senior aide on Wednesday said it is uncertain whether senators would convene but that it is “doubtful.”

Reid wanted to get to the jobs package this week because Congress will be adjourned next week for the President's Day recess. That will put off the jobs package until later this month.

Both houses of Congress were dark on Wednesday. The House announced on Tuesday it was canceling its schedule for the week, and Reid kept the Senate out of session on Wednesday.

Fifteen senators missed a vote on Tuesday to confirm Craig Becker’s nomination by President Barack Obama to the National Labor Relations Board. Becker did not receive the 60 votes necessary to break a procedural hurdle.

Those absent included four Democrats and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). Their support would not have been enough to put Becker over 60, but the absences were notable nonetheless.

Washington airports were closed on Wednesday, and the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington office late Wednesday afternoon estimated more than a foot of snow was on the ground in downtown D.C. A blizzard warning that had been scheduled to end at 7 p.m. was extended to 10 p.m.

Up to four more inches of snow was forecast for the afternoon, with substantial wind gusts of up to 55 mph in some parts of the area. Conditions are expected to improve on Thursday; the forecast is mostly sunny with highs in the lower 30s.

But it could take time for the city to dig out, particularly since streets were still clogged from a weekend storm.


Flights at Baltimore-Washington International, Reagan National and Dulles International airports were all cancelled Wednesday. Linda Warehime, spokeswoman for the Maryland Aviation Administration, said a crew at BWI was plowing a runway, but that the airlines have cancelled all flights.

Mark Treadaway, spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said crews at Reagan and Dulles are having a tougher time clearing the runways.

“The problem is the blizzard conditions -- the wind and drifting just makes it near-impossible to plow,” Treadaway said. "We have yet to determine things for tomorrow. Bottom line: Call your airline before you come to the airport, and don't come to the airport unless you have a confirmed flight."

D.C.'s Metro service was severely limited to only underground stations -- 46 of the system's 86 stations, and Metrobus and MetroAccess services were both canceled. Metro announced Wednesday evening that service will be limited to underground stations on Thursday, with Metrobus service suspended.

Federal employees will be off for the fourth straight day on Thursday.

This article was updated at 8:20 p.m.