All the pieces are in place for the Congress to make its usual mad dash for adjournment over the next few days, as lawmakers get ready to approve a short term budget and more.
Step one comes at 10:15 this morning, when the Senate votes on cloture – to shut off debate – on what is known as the Continuing Resolution, or CR, which is a stop-gap budget designed to keep the government running through March 4.
So far, no one has raised any issues about that, so the fix must be in. Once that clears the Senate, then the House will vote on it soon after. The current funding plan runs out at midnight tonight.
The Senate will also try to shut off debate on the new START Treaty with Russia. Getting 60 votes shouldn’t be a problem for Democrats, but getting two-thirds of Senators to approve the treaty still is a bit dicey.
That may not be solved until Wednesday – or even later in the week.
“Last year, we were here up until Christmas Eve,” noted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the floor on Monday.
“I hope we don’t have to do that again this year.”
The House should be able to get out of town either late today or on Wednesday, with final approval of the CR and action on a number of other bills, like major food safety legislation which was surprisingly approved by the Senate on Sunday without a vote.
“One step left,” said Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), one of the main sponsors of food safety legislation in the House, who said the bill will be a “great holiday gift” for the American people.
What is often interesting about the end of a Congressional session is how it sometimes just seems to happen. What I mean by that is there will be rumors of late nights, another day, etc., and then suddenly everything falls into place, and the Congress adjourns.
Complicating that scenario right now is that Democrats are trying hard to push through a bill that would aid first responders who have become ill from what many believe was toxins at Ground Zero after Nine Eleven.
Democrats are even threatening Senators with the idea of bringing them back after Christmas and before New Year’s to vote on that bill. Probably all talk, but it is being floated.
One thing to remember is that the 112th session of Congress begins just two weeks from tomorrow.
That’s right – in 15 days, the new GOP House takes charge, and the Democratic Senate returns with a smaller majority.
Just four shopping days left until Christmas.
Do you know where your member of Congress is?