Dem leader says GOP obstruction imperils summer break

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said the August recess is at risk because of Republican obstruction of Wall Street reform and executive branch nominees.

Durbin told reporters Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned his colleagues this week during a private meeting of the possibility of working over the August recess, when the Senate generally leaves Washington for a month.

After blocking an effort to begin debate of the Wall Street reform bill for weeks, Republicans have allowed roll-call votes on only three amendments.

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Senate Republicans have also stalled progress on 96 of President Barack Obama’s nominees. Senate Democrats complain that at a similar point in former President George W. Bush’s first term, only 20 nominees were held up in the Senate.

“The fact we are in the second week of this bill, three amendments into it, is an indication of problems to come, including jeopardizing the August recess,” Durbin said. “Sen. Reid announced that this week at the caucus [meeting].”

Reid has warned colleagues to wait on scheduling any trips during the first week of the August recess, which begins on Aug. 7.

Democratic leaders would undoubtedly face resistance from their own members for canceling or even shortening the recess, given that 2010 is a campaign year. Many Democrats facing tough races will want to spend as much time in their states as possible as Election Day nears.

Durbin said Senate Democrats plan to pass the Wall Street reform bill and a package of extenders, such as a year-long extension of unemployment insurance and a freeze in proposed cuts to doctors’ Medicare payments, by Memorial Day.

But Republican delaying tactics have jeopardized that schedule. A legislative backlog would threaten floor time for a comprehensive energy and climate change bill and immigration reform this summer.

“At this point he has told us to be careful about the first week and if this continues, it may extend into more of the August recess, which we all value as a time to be with our families,” Durbin said of the likelihood of working into the August recess.