Monday on the Hill

Monday must have been a frustrating day for Senate Democrats. They were ready to invoke cloture and vote on H.R. 1105 on Thursday, but due to being a vote short, they made an agreement with the Republicans to allow more amendments and vote this week.

As a result, they spent the whole day debating and beating back Republican amendments. Five amendments came up for a vote, and five amendments were rejected by margins of 11 to 31 votes.

The rejected amendments included yet another attempt by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to effectively strip out all the earmarks in the bill, and an amendment from Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that would prohibit funding reconstruction efforts in Gaza "until the Secretary of State certifies that none of such funds will be diverted to Hamas or entities controlled by Hamas."

The bill already includes provisions banning aid to Hamas.

Today looks like it might be similar to Monday. Of the 13 amendments Republicans introduced Friday, nine remain to be voted upon. It is possible some will be ignored due to backroom negotiations, but it is likely several will come up for a vote tonight.

Our votes for most interesting amendments awaiting a vote: Sen. John Ensign's  (R-Nev.) amendment to save the Washington, D.C. school-voucher program and Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) action to require Congress to take a vote on all future pay raises.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholars program is facing discontinuation after the 2009-2010 school year due to language inserted in the spending bill. Ensign's amendment would strike the language that imperils the $14 million program. It will be an interesting vote because Democrats have traditionally opposed voucher programs, but even they cannot be excited about the public relations impact of effectively voting to remove children from schools they have chosen to attend.

Vitter's amendment would end the practice of representatives and senators receiving automatic cost-of-living pay increases. Instead, they would have to vote any time they wanted a pay raise.

If they can get through the amendments today, it is possible a final vote on the bill will take place tonight. Once again, there is a time-sensitive element to negotiations; the current continuing resolution only lasts through Wednesday.

Will the Republicans succeed in making an amendment? Or will the bill pass as written? Tell us what you think.