Coburn Victory, Specter Assist

Amanda Carpenter
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Posted: Jul 29, 2008 6:58 AM
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fell 8 votes short of the 60 needed to force a vote on a bill he created to shame Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) and run out the clock till August recess to avoid working on energy policy.

I've written about this here before, but the quick recap is that Reid rolled 34 bills worth $11 billion, many titled with nice sounding names and with lots and lots of pork. It was nicknamed the "Tomnibus" since most Coburn has been opposed to most everything in it. Reid challenged the GOP to stand with Coburn to block it and risk being made out to look like really, really bad people in the media. (Ooooooo, I know.) Everybody knew it was about soaking up Senate time until August recess so there couldn't be room to put a  big debate on drilling on the schedule, though. That would be bad for Democrats. So, Reid wanted to use those last days to break up the GOP and demonize Coburn instead.

Since Reid lost his vote, the Dems are stuck talking about energy the rest of the week---something they are terrified of doing since all the polls are in favor of drilling right now. Before the "Tomnibus"  failed, Reid said he'd only allow two amendments to the Dem energy speculation bill. That would squelch any talk of expanding domestic energy from the pesky, oil-hungry Republicans he thought.  Feeling really desperate before the vote Reid tried to bribe the GOP by saying he'd give them four amendments on energy if they'd proceed on the Tomnibus and debate that the rest of the week. But if they did that, the rest of the week would be spent on Tomnibus, not energy. Not a great offer from Dirty Harry, so that didn't happen.

Basically, Reid's plan totally backfired. Instead of breaking up the GOP, as Reid had hoped to do by forcing a vote on the "Tomnibus" he unified them in making the Democrats stay on energy legislation. Oops.

According to Congress Daily's run down of the fight, Coburn's best ally was Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (R.) who said it's "worth fighting for, even if it's going to be misunderstood" and that "August session ought to be for oil and gas prices."