The End Game

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This week the entire forty-two member Senate Republican Conference sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid making it clear they would vote against cloture on a motion to consider any legislation until the chamber has acted to fund the government and extend the Bush-era tax cuts. Coming off historic wins from the 2010 mid-term elections, Republicans during this Lame Duck session are feeling quite confident they can drive the agenda, and the President has given them reason to believe this as he has wavered in recent weeks on tax cuts. Much to the dismay of the progressive wing of his party.

The silver-lining for Democrats is that they at least have a clear understanding of where Republicans stand and can use this opportunity to advance their priorities in exchange for holding votes on tax cuts and a continuing resolution. The House and Senate have already voted to fund government operations through December 18th, and the House is currently working on a year-long CR. Simultaneously, Senate Appropriations Chairman Inouye is feverishly working on a catch-all FY 11 Omnibus spending bill which could be the vehicle for other legislative priorities, including the tax cut extensions. Senator Reid has filed cloture for two tax cutting votes that may occur on Saturday – one would continue the tax cuts for couples making up to $250,000 and the other for those making up to $1,000,000.

Democratic priorities also include extension of unemployment benefits, immigration reform (DREAM Act), repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the New START Treaty, food safety and child nutrition legislation, and the long-term fix for Medicare physician payments. The CR or Omnibus may include some of these measures.

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