Senators are scrambling to finish work on a 4,155-page omnibus spending package before a winter storm unleashes blizzard conditions across the country, which could wreak havoc on airports and roads right before Christmas.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers say they hope they could pass the $1.645 trillion package on Wednesday evening and give the House a chance to pass it on Thursday, two days before Christmas Eve.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday urged colleagues to cooperate with his plan to pass the bill as soon as possible to avoid the risk of getting marooned in Washington before Christmas because of looming bad weather.
“We must finish passing this omnibus before the deadline on Friday when government funding runs out, but we hope to do it much sooner than that because we’re mindful that a nor’easter is barreling down the East Coast on Thursday and Friday,” Schumer implored colleagues on the floor.
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), an adviser to the Senate GOP leadership team, said there’s growing desire among Republicans to get the omnibus wrapped up quickly so senators don’t get stuck in Washington because of the massive storm, which is projected to create bomb cyclone conditions over the Midwest.
“I think we’re coalescing behind that plan,” he said. “There’s some desire for some amendments, but I think we can knock those pretty quickly.”
“I think the storm is accelerating people’s interest,” he added. “I’m a little concerned, even if the weather’s not bad, that flights are disrupted and people can’t get home for the holidays, which would be too bad.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.C.) echoed that timeline — and lawmakers’ desire to get out of Washington, D.C., before the storm hits.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), a member of the Senate Democratic leadership team, said she hopes that senators can finish voting on the omnibus Wednesday evening, which would then send the package over to the House to pass Thursday.
“This looks really bad,” she said of the weather reports. “They’re talking bomb cyclones. We’ve been through this before in Michigan … 60 mile-per-hour winds.
“There’s a great motivation on everybody’s part” to get the omnibus bill wrapped up on Wednesday evening, she added.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said no senator wants to spend Christmas in Washington because their flight home gets canceled because of weather.
“It depends if people want to spend Christmas here in D.C.,” he quipped when asked if the omnibus needs to get wrapped up quickly to get out of town before high winds and snow move across the Midwest and Northeast.
“I think, hopefully, common sense will prevail here and we’ll move along and get home for Christmas,” he added.
Al Weaver contributed.