Senate’s agenda grows as time ticks

December 15, 2010

By Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times

Forget about going quietly into the night.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a broad agenda for an end-of-session sprint that otherwise could be a whole year’s worth of activity — including an arms-reduction treaty with Russia, a major immigration reform bill and legislation overturning the ban on openly gay military service members.

That’s not to mention the nearly 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill that contains hundreds of pork-barrel projects and new rules governing things such as airport baggage and the fate of detainees at the military prison at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“We’re not through. Congress ends on Jan. 4,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

What is likely to get the most attention is the omnibus spending bill, spanning 1,924 pages and spending what amounts to an average of $575.13 million per page.

It stands in contrast to the House, which last week passed a bill freezing fiscal 2011 spending at 2010 levels. The Senate bill boosts spending by $16 billion — a tough sell at a time when deficits and debt are dominating the policy debate in Washington.

In some cases, the spending bill rejects President Obama‘s proposed cuts. For example, Mr. Obama asked Congress to cut funding for the Delta Health Initiative, which in 2010 received about $26 million for health care programs in eight states. The Senate bill increases funding for the program to nearly $35 million.

In further defiance of Mr. Obama, aides said, the bill funds an alternate production line for engines for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Mr. Obama has said he would veto any legislation that funded the second engine program, which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said is not needed.

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