WASHINGTON — Citing bickering among lawmakers and staffers, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid announced Thursday evening the chamber will be unable to finish work on a government-wide spending measure this week.
The Nevada Democrat said senators from both parties have at times acted in an “unmanageable” manner, proving unwilling to compromise on amendments to a continuing resolution (CR) that contains a full 2013 defense appropriations bill.
The resulting stagnation means Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) leaders and their staffs will spend the weekend trimming nearly 100 pending amendments into the “finite list” Reid says is necessary to complete the legislation on Monday.
Speaking Thursday evening on the chamber floor, Reid shared an anecdote to illustrate what has been happening behind the scenes. He said five senators have offered amendments on Egypt.
Those five senators and their staffs have been working “all day” — with no apparent success — to come up with a single Egypt-focused amendment, said a frustrated Reid, his arms extended to drive home his point.
The bill’s floor manager, SAC Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said senators have filed 99 pending amendments that she and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, will “work all weekend” to pare into a number small enough to work through and pass the bill early next week.
Reid wants to clear the CR so the House has ample time to review it and vote on the Senate version ahead of March 27. That’s when funding for the Defense Department and other federal agencies is slated to run out.
House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, indicated earlier Thursday he has seen nothing added to or removed from the House-passed version of the CR that would cause the lower chamber to reject it and therefore trigger a government shutdown later this month.
“So far, so good,” Boehner told reporters. But he said he would reserve a final judgment on the Senate’s bill until the House has reviewed every amendment and attachment.
The House version contains a $518.1 billion 2013 Pentagon spending bill, as does the Senate version. The upper chamber also attached a handful of other agency appropriations bills that had cleared committee vetting and been worked over by House-Senate conference committees.
If enough House members object to specific items in the version the Senate sends back across the Capitol campus next week, Reid has indicated “a quick conference” committee would be assembled to iron out the differences.
As Mikulski and Shelby — and their staffs — prepare to undertake the delicate work of deciding which amendments will get a floor vote and which will be discarded, she offered a piece of advice.
CR amendments should “focus on what we must do,” and amendments geared more toward what senators “want to do” should be offered next week when the chamber takes up a Democratic-crafted budget resolution.