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Patrick Richardson

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December 18, 2010 - 12:00 am

The massive $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill, a nearly 2,000-page monstrosity which contained 6,714 earmarks worth about $8.3 billion, was yanked back by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday night as it became clear the votes to pass it just did not exist.

A short-term “continuing resolution,” which would fund the government through February, would now seem to be the only option.

Reid said on the floor of the Senate that he had had assurances from nine Republicans that they would vote for the bill — and that all of them, whom he declined to name, walked away from the bill.

Now Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Reid will be working together to come up with the continuing resolution which will allow the Republican House to revisit spending after the first of the year.

McConnell said after the bill was pulled back that this was the “first time in modern history … that not a single appropriations bill went across the Senate floor.”

McConnell went on to say the Appropriations Committee had, in a bipartisan way, done its job but the full Senate had not:

And so what we ended up with, Mr. President (of the Senate), was this, this almost 2,000 page omnibus appropriation bill which we only got, it was yesterday? Yesterday. And so the point here is the work that the Appropriations Committee did in many respects was squandered because the full senate didn’t do its job. And this is precisely the kind of thing the American people have gotten tired of.

According to Oklahoma Senator Dr. Tom Coburn the C.R. is the preferable option.

Among other things, Coburn takes issue with the $8.3 billion worth of earmarks included in the legislation — earmarks his spokesman John Hart said Thursday are the “gateway drug of spending addiction.”

Hart said Coburn’s hope is very straightforward.

What Coburn is calling for, Hart said, is a freeze of spending levels at the 2008 level. Something the Wall Street Journal says 80 percent of the nation would support. That $8.3 billion, by the way, is roughly half the difference between the dead spending bill and what was spent in 2008.

Hart said one of the problems with passing the spending bill is it sets in stone the financial year 2011 spending levels. Passing a continuing resolution now would allow the Republican House to pass a second continuing resolution in February freezing spending at 2008 levels.

Hart noted that not only did the WSJ poll show that 80 percent of the American public support a spending freeze, but 70 percent would support ending all earmarks.

“The American people are solidly behind our position on this,” Hart said.

McConnell said on the floor the reason Reid yanked the bill back was simple — he didn’t have the votes:

The reason he doesn’t have the votes is because members on this side of the aisle increasingly felt concerned about the way we do business. And for many of our members it was not so much the substance of the bill but the process.

For Coburn it wasn’t the process, it was the substance.

“If members have an earmark in the bill they’re more likely to support spending levels they wouldn’t otherwise support,” Hart said. “Certain members want to protect their earmarks. This way of doing business is under siege and they want to grab all they can while they can.”

Proving of course that he still doesn’t get it, Reid is continuing to slam forward with unpopular legislation, saying as he pulled back the omnibus bill he would be scheduling cloture votes on a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the DREAM act for Saturday.

Stay tuned, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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