Senate leader: Saturday votes on continuing resolution expected

The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote Saturday on a more than $600 billion continuing resolution package that would fund the federal government through March 6, cover three fiscal 2009 appropriations bills and provide $22.9 billion for disaster relief. "Right now, it appears that we would have a Saturday cloture vote on that," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Earlier in the day, Reid said he would file cloture on the bill. The House passed the package, 370-58, on Wednesday, and if the Senate approves the measure unchanged, it would go to President Bush.

Reid predicted an equally strong vote in the Senate, but a spokesman later said timing depended on cooperation from Republicans.

Debate on the measure will not interfere with a presidential debate scheduled for Friday night between Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., according to Reid. McCain has sought to postpone the presidential candidates' debate until after a deal is struck on separate legislation being drafted by Congress and the White House to bolster financial markets.

"We are going to make sure that there are no excuses for [not] going to the debate," Reid said. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Thursday said Reid has been considering retaining the current ban on producing oil shale in the West, a ban that was not included in the House version of the CR.

That measure also did not include the annual offshore drilling ban. "I don't think the votes are in the House to continue these bans, either of them," Boehner said. "That's why they weren't in the [House] CR and Sen. Reid shouldn't cause problems for the CR." Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said he also heard about Reid's thinking on the ban. "They're not going to move a CR with an energy ban," he said.

Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.V., praised the House-passed CR and called on his colleagues to vote for the bill. "This overall package lives up to the Democrats' commitment to supporting our troops, taking care of our veterans, securing our homeland, providing help for families on Main Street, and directing relief to the victims of natural disasters all across this great nation of ours," Byrd said in a statement.

As far as other spending measures, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday she intends to bring an economic stimulus package to the House floor Friday. "That is in the works right now, but I can't tell you all the details of it except that it will have a strong emphasis on creating jobs and infrastructure," said Pelosi. She said the measure might be "a little more" than the original $50 billion cost that she indicated last week. Pelosi said she planned to discuss the package with Bush Thursday afternoon when she and other House and Senate leaders, as well as both major presidential candidates, meet at the White House to discuss financial bailout legislation.

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