As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, took to the chamber floor Thursday, he ticked off a laundry list of priority items that he said need to get done before the session draws to a close, making it all the more apparent that he and his colleagues will work at least until Christmas Day and possibly beyond.
Notably absent from the leader's To-Do list -- ratification of the START Treaty, which has run up against an ever-shrinking legislative calendar. Still, senior Senate Democratic aides say the resolution of ratification will pass the Senate in this lame duck session.
Meanwhile, the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, blasted the $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill Democrats introduced earlier this week. It was a show-and-tell moment for the leader, as he hoisted the 1,924-page bill, chock full of $8 billion worth of pork, his own included (though he has since disavowed the requests), saying, "Frankly, it's just kind of unbelievable," and noting the measure spends "$.5 billion a page."
"We all know this is not the way to legislate," McConnell chastised, as he then waived a one-page alternative that extends government funding through February 2011, locking in spending at current levels.
Reid made clear in his opening remarks, however, that he intends to call up the omnibus, instead. That measure gained the significant backing of Defense Secretary Robert Gates Wednesday who said it is too difficult to run his massive department on a mere short-term extension of the current funding.
It is a high-stakes game of legislative chicken which could lead to a temporary government shut down if the money is not appropriated by Saturday night at midnight.