To prove his point, Conrad launched into the litany of matters -- from financial reform, to energy legislation, to passing rudimentary and regular spending bills -- that Congress must tackle with only 13 legislative weeks remaining on the calendar.
"Map it out," he said. "There is no way to do all this. Seems to me it would be wise to put all of the tax measures together, including small business, and middle-class tax cuts and the estate tax; have them all together because how is all this work going to get done?"
Conrad was not certain the proposal was well received by members.
"It's always hard to tell," he said.
The senator's proposal would force lawmakers to tackle before the election the issue of which tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush should be extended. Nearly all of those measures expire at the end of the year.
Democratic leaders have a similar timeline as Conrad's when it come to the Bush tax breaks. But rank-in-file members prefer to wait until after the election to take on the issue since rate cuts affecting wealthier taxpayers are unlikely to be extended, which could be a political liability for those facing tough re-election bids.