Senate GOP Leader McConnell offers short-term alternative to Democrats' omnibus spending bill

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Dec. 16 - In the escalating battle over funding the federal government, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attacked the Democrats' proposed omnibus spending bill as “complicated, costly, far-reaching legislation.” Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday morning, McConnell said:

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“This bill is so enormous it took the Government Printing Office two days to print it. It spends more than half a billion dollars a page. It runs just under 2,000 pages. And it's got more than a billion dollars in it for the Democrat health care bill that an ever-growing number of Americans want to repeal, not fund. This is exactly the kind of thing the American people voted against in November.”

As an alternative, McConnell introduced his own 14-line, no frills Continuing Resolution (CR) to extend the current CR, which expires Saturday, in order to maintain current funding levels another two months until February 18, 2011.

McConnell charged that the Democrats “want us to ram this gigantic, trillion dollar bill through Congress - and they're using the Christmas break as a inducement to get us to vote for it. This is no way to legislate.” He promised that “Once the new Congress is sworn in, we'll have a chance to pass a less expensive bill free of wasteful spending. . . Americans don't want massive, trillion dollar bills rushed through Congress on our way out the door - they want us to be careful and responsible with their money.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) voiced a very different view of the Democrats' push to complete work on a number of bills before breaking for Christmas, including both the omnibus spending bill and the START nuclear weapons treaty. Speaking on the Senate floor in response to complaints from McConnell and other Republicans, Reid blamed Republicans for the lame duck session's long list of unfinished business. He said: “Senate Republicans need look no further than themselves in casting blame for the predicament we are in right now. In this Congress, Republicans have waged 87 filibusters. They have used every trick in the book to delay legislation.”

Faced with threats from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to force days-long floor readings of pending legislation, Reid said “These are additional days of wasted time we could be using to pass legislation and get home for the holidays. Yet some of my Republican colleagues have the nerve to whine about having to stay and actually do the work the American people pay us for . . . Most people don't get two weeks off yet alone one week off for Christmas. And those people who are lucky enough to have a job in these trying times need to work extra hours just to make ends meet.”

Reid concluded that “The path to finishing this year lies in the hands of Senator Kyl, Senator DeMint and any other Senate Republican who are trying run out the clock or run out the door without finishing the American people's business.”

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