On the $410 billion omnibus, Democratic leaders’ goal right now is to pass the bill and avoid further trouble. If the bill passes the Senate “as is,” it can go straight to President Obama for a signature. Through a bipartisan agreement, the Senate will consider 13 amendments to the bill today and tomorrow. Passage of any of them would force further action in the House.
Senate Democrats have successfully beaten back every amendment so far, and they will likely succeed in defeating at least 12 of the 13 pending. The one to watch — the one with the best chance of passage — is that of Sen. David Vitter (R., La.), on which I am told he will be speaking from the Senate floor in about 90 minutes. Vitter’s amendment would force an annual vote for members of Congress to receive pay increases. Under current law, the pay raise is on “auto-pilot” unless Congress prevents it, which the omnibus already does for 2010.
The Vitter amendment will be a very tough vote for many Democrats, as no one wants to be viewed as defending his own pay raise at a time when few Americans are getting raises. To give his members some cover, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) proposed a stand-alone bill on Friday (S 542) that is nearly identical to Vitter’s amendment.
Democrats are expected to bring a tabling motion tomorrow to kill Vitter’s amendment, with the excuse that they can come back later and vote against automatic pay raises by supporting Reid’s bill.