The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — In a surprisingly suspenseful vote, the Senate cleared a key parliamentary hurdle Saturday on a huge spending bill for almost half the federal government, a measure that increases funding for the agencies it covers by an average of 10 percent.
The Senate voted 60 to 34 to close off debate on the must-pass omnibus spending bill. But in order to end a Republican filibuster, Democrats had to hold open the 15-minute vote for an additional 50 minutes so 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., could be wheeled in and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., could walk to the chamber from his synagogue in Georgetown.
Byrd has been ailing most of this year and votes only on important matters. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, honors the Sabbath by refusing to drive and by rarely working on Saturdays unless absolutely necessary.
“Shabbat shalom (peaceful sabbath),” Lieberman said as he entered the Capitol, after attending morning services on the second day of Hanukkah and then walking more than three miles to the Capitol on a cold December morning. He cast the 60th vote for the $446.8 billion spending bill covering the Justice and State departments, among other agencies.
A final vote is scheduled for this afternoon. The House passed the measure last week, and President Obama has indicated he will sign the bill.
All but three Senate Republicans opposed the measure, citing what they consider to be wasteful spending on domestic agencies at a time of war. Three Democrats — Sens. Evan Bayh, Ind., Russell Feingold, Wis., and Claire McCaskill, Mo. — joined Republicans in supporting a filibuster of the bill.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Ariz., the No. 2 GOP leader, called for “a more responsible way” of handling the dozen annual spending bills. Only five bills have been completed and signed into law. This bill bundles together six of the remaining appropriations bills into one measure, in what has become a typical annual legislative adventure.