At one point yesterday, according to a Senate Republican leadership aide, Democrats were telling reporters to “watch the floor” for action on the omnibus bill. GOP critics had pushed for all 1,924 pages of the legislation to read aloud by Senate clerks — which would have taken an estimated 50 hours — but Democrats were planning to block this maneuver using a procedural trick. “The bill wasn’t going to be read,” says the Republican aide. “We were going to raise holy hell about it.”
In the end, of course, Mitch McConnell informed Harry Reid that Democrats didn’t have the votes, and the bill-reading exercise was no longer necessary. Is it true that nine Senate Republicans were initially open to supporting the omnibus, as Reid indicated? “That seems a little high,” says the GOP leadership staffer. “But there were so many undecideds that it’s kind of hard to tell.”
By the time Reid yanked the bill, all but a few Republican members had agreed to oppose it. “There were still a couple of undecideds,” says the leadership aide. But if Reid had filed for cloture, “I think they probably would have voted with us.” The “most surprising” Republican opponent turned out to be Mississippi’s Thad Cochran, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who had helped craft the omnibus package and had sponsored more than $561 million worth of earmarks (according to Taxpayers for Common Sense).