Senate session may drag on into December

Senate Democrats on Tuesday showed no signs of laying off their criticism of Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., for keeping the Senate in session and voting during the Veterans Day holiday, while asking members to be available for an all-night marathon debate on judicial nominations starting Wednesday night.

Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said because of the "extraordinary mismanagement" of the schedule this week, the Senate might not go out for the year until well after Thanksgiving.

"It could be closer to Christmas," Daschle said Tuesday.

Minority Whip Harry Reid, D-Nev., held a one-man filibuster on the floor Monday, taking up nearly nine hours of floor time and preventing work on appropriations bills, to protest Frist's plans, although Republicans defended the schedule as necessary and blamed Democrats for not caring enough about the judicial system. Daschle said Democrats relished the 30-hour judicial nominations debate because they would have 15 hours to talk about job losses.

"My only wish is that we had 30 hours to do something to affect those jobs," Daschle said. He also said Democrats would object to committees meeting Thursday during the judicial nominations debate.

Even though the Senate planned to hold votes Tuesday on a Syria accountability bill and potentially on the Military Construction appropriations conference report, some senators were far from the Capitol, honoring veterans in their home states.

"He's got a full schedule," Mike Buttry, communications director for Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said when asked about his boss' plans. Hagel is a Vietnam veteran, co-chairs the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Corporate Council and served as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration under President Reagan. Hagel was not in Washington Monday and was not expected to be in town Tuesday. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a World War II veteran who lost his right arm in combat, told CongressDaily last week that he was planning to spend the holiday in his state. "They're only talking about judgeships anyway," he said.

Senate Commerce Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, spent some time Monday in his home state of Arizona but was back in Washington Tuesday, according to a spokesman. Daschle, also a veteran, held a news conference today with other Senate Democrats to highlight their agenda for veterans. Other senators are concerned about the scheduling, but said they saw it as part of the job.

"We need to follow the leader's schedule," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who acknowledged that she would rather be in Maine. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said most Republicans were in Washington for the holiday. "I'm not saying they're not grumbling," he joked.

A spokesman for Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said, "Every senator under the sun had plans-but that's the way it is."