When last we left the Senate chamber, Harry Reid had dragged himself onto the floor after an hour delay to recess until 12:01am Eastern. An hour after midnight, the Dems brought the defense authorization bill up for a cloture vote. This after months and months of delay on the bill, which has been used by the Dems in both chambers as a non-military domestic spending gravy train.
Politico picks up the story from there:
A $626 billion Pentagon budget narrowly advanced in the Senate Friday morning, but not before Washington’s political battles seemed to eclipse the real wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate scene, played out in a post-midnight session on a freezing night, dramatized how poisonous the atmosphere has become in the health care fight.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates had to weigh in for fear the military would be left with only stop-gap funding while fighting two wars overseas. And ailing 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) was wheeled in for the 1 a.m. vote while his old friend Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) deserted the bill under pressure from his own leadership to slow action.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made no secret of the fact that he was looking for leverage over Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to delay action on health care reform until after Christmas. The pressure on rank-and-file members was severe, and it was only after Democrats had secured the needed 60 votes that three Republicans broke ranks in support of cutting off debate.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voted for cloture.
Who controls the schedule? Not the Rs:
Democrats stalled action themselves for months, hoping to use it as the locomotive for an end-of-the-year train of legislative items. “The Republicans didn’t control the timing on this bill,” said Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “Why haven’t the Democrats been able to bring this most important bill to the Senate for a vote until a week before Christmas?”
Tick, tick, tick. There’s still no Demcare bill to look at. Philip Klein checks the transparency clock and points out the majority’s big fail:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s breakneck schedule to get health care legislation passed by Christmas Eve would mean that the first vote on health care would happen to less than 64 hours from now — at 1 a.m. Monday morning — and yet we still have no final bill or score from the Congressional Budget Office.
Back in October, a group of Democratic Senators sent a letter to Reid urging him to post the final bill and CBO score online for 72 hours prior to a vote. The letter was signed by Sens. Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Mark Pyror, and Jim Webb.
…Can any of these Senators argue with a straight face that releasing a bill on a weekend when most Americans are out Christmas shopping and decorating trees will provide them the “opportunity to evaluate these policies and communicate their concerns or their message of support to their Members of Congress”? Or “provide them with the chance to respond to proposals that will impact their lives”?
If they think trust in Congress is low now, wait until they see what happens if Reid resorts to such draconian tactics to ram through a bill by Christmas that would overhaul one-sixth of the nation’s economy and that is supported by less than a third of the public.