Reid-McConnell clash guarantees Senate will keep working into next week on spending bill & START treaty

By Jon H. Harsch

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Washington, Dec. 15 - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) clashed sharply Wednesday morning on the Senate floor. Their disagreement over what business the Senate needs to complete before Christmas guarantees that the Senate will continue working through Monday or longer rather than heading home Friday as planned.

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Reid listed a string of bills he wants passed within the next few days, starting with the Bush tax cuts extension which comes up this afternoon for a final vote, an omnibus bill to fund the federal government for the current fiscal year through next September, and the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia. He said he also wants action on pending nominations and on the DREAM act to legalize some children of illegal immigrants if these children complete two years of military service or college.

McConnell's response to Reid's long list of what the Senate should accomplish before leaving for Christmas was to reject it as a “left-wing wish list” which Reid wants to rush through “just the way they rushed the healthcare bill through Congress last Christmas.” McConnell said he is totally opposed to the Democrats' omnibus spending bill, noting especially that it includes funding for the administration's healthcare law which Republicans have pledged to repeal in the new Congress.

McConnell also called for rejecting the START treaty. He said the one piece of business the Senate needs to complete is to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to provide funding for the government for the next few months. Other than the CR, McConnell said, “everything else can wait.”

Reid said he hopes that Republicans won't carry out their threat to force Senate floor readings of the Democrats' legislation - readings which could consume several days, blocking other business and adding further delay before senators will be able to head home for the holidays. Responding to Republican complaints that there should be more time for Republicans to read the proposed START treaty before having to vote on it, Reid said “this treaty has been around since April or May, even a slow reader could finish reading every word of that many, many different times.”

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