Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) laid out an daunting summer agenda for the Senate on Monday afternoon, including a tax extenders bill, an emergency extension of unemployment benefits, a small-business jobs bill, the financial reform conference report and a war funding bill.
To top that off, the Senate also has to begin the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and deal with the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf.
"The work period between now and July 4 is short, but our to-do list is very long," Reid said.
As if that’s not enough to deal with, Reid wants key Senate committees to draw up an energy bill in wake of the oil spill crisis.
Late last week, Reid sent a letter to committee chairmen calling for the groundwork to be laid on a comprehensive energy bill. On the floor Monday, he made an even more explicit connection to the Gulf crisis and the need for an energy bill.
“Beyond the immediate damage and our anger at those whose irresponsibility allowed it to happen in the first place, this spill underscores our need for a new energy policy," Reid said. "We need a policy that fully recognizes the obvious and hidden costs of the way we produce and consume energy today. We need to confront and limit the risks of future catastrophes. We cannot wait to act until after more tragedies and disasters happen."
One of the most significant obstacles Reid will have to overcome is the charge from Republicans that all legislation should be compliant with the Senate's pay-as-you-go rules. Many bills — from emergency extenders to the financial regulatory reform legislation to the war funding bill — have faced resistance of some kind from GOP members who want to impose stringent pay-go rules.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pre-empted Reid's message by calling out Democrats on the floor as reckless spenders.
"As we work to stem the crisis in the Gulf, Congress cannot continue to ignore another pressing crisis — an exploding federal debt that threatens our very way of life," McConnell said. "Democrats can’t seem to resist any opportunity to use a must-pass bill like this as a vehicle for more deficit spending ... all at a moment when the national debt has now reached $13 trillion for the first time in history.
"This is fiscal recklessness, plain and simple."
But Reid scoffed at McConnell’s insistence that legislation should not be considered "emergency" spending and therefore exempt from pay-go rules.
"I am stunned by my friends' short memory of history," Reid said on the floor. "One reason we have this red ink that's flowing so strongly is we had two wars that weren't paid for. The Iraq war alone cost $1 trillion. Many say it was a war of choice, not of necessity. The financial meltdown came about as a result of the Republican decisions they made."
By MEREDITH SHINER
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0610/38211.html#ixzz0qHY0VCW4
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