The Senate is still in session on Wednesday as they race to finish their business in time to leave for Christmas next week. One of the biggest items they face is the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA), which provides Congress with a budget for the next two years, settling various fights over fiscal policy that have plagued the institution for the past few years. The legislation is expected to pass easily, although a number of Republicans have criticized it for cutting veterans’ retirement pay and as a step back from the deficit-reduction measures of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Some Democrats have criticized it for requiring Federal workers to contribute more to their own retirement funds. The bill will then go to the President for his signature before he heads to Hawaii for Christmas.
Although the Senate is set to pass the BBA, it is hardly a pleasant place to be these days. Ever since Majority Leader Harry Reid triggered the nuclear option to eliminate filibusters for most nominations, interparty comity appears to be at historic lows. Ideally, the Senate would finish by the end of the week, but Reid is threatening to keep them in session until Christmas if Republicans do not yield their debate time on nominations. Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also charged that the majority is trying to expedite the debate on the National Defense Authorization Act when more consideration is needed and that the Majority Leader will not allow votes even on amendments that enjoy bipartisan support. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy is threatening to do away with the traditional practice of allowing Senators effectively to veto nominees from their home states; the Chairman is mulling the change because Republicans made a little-used objection that meetings could not be held after two hours after the Senate convenes.
Senators might be itching to get out of town for the recess, but Senator John McCain introduced one last bill: an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill. He introduced the bill to prevent a “redistribution of wealth” and satisfy the general dissatisfaction among the public for the law.
And for our latest blog post: Flattening the Rules: The Implications of the Senate’s Nuclear Option