What Working on the Weekend in the Senate Is Really Like

<p>The Senate was in this weekend, but the halls were largely empty.</p>
National Journal
Michael Catalini
See more stories about...
Michael Catalini
Oct. 6, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

Empty sub­way cars trundle from the Cap­it­ol to the of­fice build­ings with a whoosh straight out of a Star Wars movie. Foot­falls re­ver­ber­ate loudly off the white-stone walls in the Rus­sell Build­ing. Gil­ded el­ev­at­ors bong and open their doors — no need for the usu­al Sen­ate two-step be­cause there’s no one in­side.

While the Sen­ate was open for busi­ness this week­end, all the activ­ity at­tend­ing a nor­mal le­gis­lat­ive ses­sion was largely ab­sent.

It was so quiet that Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., had time to squeeze in a reg­u­lar doc­tor’s ap­point­ment with a phys­i­cian in the Cap­it­ol.

An aide said that some re­port­ers thought Re­id was secretly head­ing to House Speak­er John Boehner’s of­fice, or per­haps to meet with Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell. But this was just a reg­u­lar checkup — and noth­ing’s the mat­ter with Re­id, the aide said.

For Mc­Con­nell, the slug­gish sched­ule af­forded him a chance to get back to Ken­tucky, where he faces stout polit­ic­al op­pos­i­tion on the right from busi­ness­man Matt Bev­in, and the left from Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes. That he wasn’t in the Cap­it­ol also sug­gests the level of dis­agree­ment between cham­bers and the dif­fi­culty of a deal.

“He is meet­ing with con­stitu­ents, but re­mains in con­tact with his mem­bers and is avail­able if a vote is called at any time this week­end,” said spokes­man Mi­chael Bru­mas in an email.

Many of the sen­at­ors in the Cap­it­ol were ju­ni­or Demo­crat­ic mem­bers, tapped to preside over the Sen­ate. For ex­ample, Fresh­man Sen. An­gus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with Demo­crats, rushed onto the sub­way from Dirk­sen, pre­pared to give a floor speech, then preside over the cham­ber.

But there were Re­pub­lic­ans, too. Sen Mike Lee of Utah sparred over the shut­down from the well of the Sen­ate with his Demo­crat­ic col­leagues, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine offered a pro­pos­al she thought could serve as a polit­ic­al es­cape hatch for both sides, re­peal­ing the med­ic­al device tax (for Re­pub­lic­ans) and of­fer­ing agen­cies flex­ib­il­ity in ap­ply­ing se­quest­ra­tion cuts (for Demo­crats).

There were no votes Sat­urday, but there was par­tis­an rhet­or­ic from the floor. Clearly ex­as­per­ated at how dug in her col­leagues are, yet still op­tim­ist­ic about break­ing the im­passe, Collins sug­ges­ted sheath­ing the rhet­or­ic­al dag­gers.

“I think the more people who are will­ing to put ideas out there — and if not mine, someone else’s — the bet­ter,” Collins said.

The Sen­ate re­turns at 2 p.m. Monday, with votes on ju­di­cial nom­in­ees later in the even­ing. The Sen­ate might also take up the House-passed mini-con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion provid­ing for back-pay for fed­er­al work­ers, aides say.

But Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans will also pick up the fight over the shut­down where they left off — dug in as ever.

“This isn’t a date to the prom,” Re­id said re­cently, ex­plain­ing why Demo­crats won’t of­fer Re­pub­lic­ans a face-sav­ing pro­vi­sion. “This is our coun­try.”

What We're Following See More »
HE ‘WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT’
Warren Goes After Trump Yet Again
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage. 

FIRST CHANGE IN FOUR DECADES
Congress Passes Chemical Regulations Overhaul
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."

Source:
NO MORE INDEPENDENT VOTERS?
GOP Could Double Number of Early Primaries
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over making fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party." Among the possible changes: forbidding independent voters to cast ballots in Republican primaries, and "doubling the number of early states to eight."

Source:
LEVERAGE
Kasich Tells His Delegates to Remain Pledged to Him
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."

Source:
EFFECTIVE NEXT MONTH
House GOP Changes Rules for Spending Measures
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Speaker Paul Ryan is changing the rules of how the House will consider spending measures to try to prevent Democrats from offering surprise amendments that have recently put the GOP on defense. ... Ryan announced at a House GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning that members will now have to submit their amendments ahead of time so that they are pre-printed in the Congressional Record, according to leadership aides." The change will take effect after the Memorial Day recess.

Source:
×