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The Politics of a Late-Night Senate Session The Politics of a Late-Night Senate Session

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The Politics of a Late-Night Senate Session

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Thursday, July 12, 2012, to discuss the Senate's upcoming vote on the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

September 25, 2012

You probably heard that the Senate passed the continuing resolution to keep the government running through March.

But you might not have caught Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's overnight attempt to bring the defense authorization bill up for consideration at 1:40 a.m. Saturday morning.

"I've been asked on a number of occasions by Senator [Carl] Levin, Senator [John] McCain what we're going to do on ... the Defense Authorization bill. I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by me, after consultation with the Republican leader, the Senate proceed to ... the Defense authorization bill," Reid said.

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who was one of a few senators still in the chamber, was quick to respond.

"Mr. President, I am very, very disappointed in this request. Senator McCain has been asking that the leader take up the Defense Authorization bill for weeks," he said.

Reid's dead-pan reply: "Mr. President?"

The presiding senator: "Is there objection?"

"Yes, Mr. President, I said I had no alternative," Kyl said.

The question, then, was why did Reid raise the question in the middle of the night?

A Senate leadership aide, who requested anonymity to discuss Reid's calculus, said that Reid "has been telling McCain for over two months that he would bring the defense authorization bill to the floor once Republicans agreed to actually have a debate and only have [votes on] relevant amendments to the bill."

Republicans would not agree, the aide said. GOP senators generally want an open amendment process under which they can offer amendments unrelated to the focus of the underlying legislation.

A McCain aide pulled no punches criticizing Reid's move.

"This was nothing more than a cheap procedural ploy to divert blame for the Senate's failure - for the first time in a half-century - to debate and pass the most important piece of national security legislation that Congress considers, the National Defense Authorization Act," the aide said.

Reid has said Republicans are responsible for blocking action on the bill. His request Saturday morning aimed to force the GOP to object, giving Democrats ammunition to blame Republicans for inaction if the subject comes up during the campaign.

Dan Friedman contributed.

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