The death of the omnibus

THE DEATH OF THE OMNIBUS…. The stage was set for yet another partisan showdown. With the threat of a government shutdown lingering in the air, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demanded that the chamber approve a temporary extension of existing funding levels to keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 18. At that point, a new, more right-wing Congress can decide how best to proceed.

As of yesterday, Democrats rejected the demands. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday that he would advance an omnibus spending bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.

Reid felt confident, because he thought he had the votes — as many as nine Senate Republicans had said they’d support the omnibus, which would be more than enough to guarantee passage. But within a few hours, Reid was told that those GOP senators, feeling too much heat from their party, had decided not to keep their commitments.

Lacking the votes he’d need to proceed, Reid gave up on the omnibus last night.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Thursday night that he was abandoning efforts to pass a $1.2 trillion spending measure to finance the government through Sept. 30 because Republicans would not support it.

Mr. Reid said he would work with the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on a stop-gap spending bill instead. Senate Republicans also said they would not support a House-passed temporary spending measure running through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Instead, they want to develop a separate measure running only through the early part of next year.

Republicans seemed awfully pleased with themselves, but it’s worth emphasizing how poor a showing this was for the GOP. This was, after all, a spending bill Republicans stuffed with earmarks, only to then whine about how awful the bill is because of all the earmarks. Worse, the Senate Republican leadership complained that the omnibus was too big, despite the fact that the Senate Republican leadership had already agreed to the exact size of the omnibus. Months of bipartisan work went into shaping this bill, all of which was trashed in a partisan tantrum.

The GOP clearly won the skirmish, by virtue of the fact Republicans got what they wanted, but anyone watching the fight hopefully noticed how petty and ridiculous the party appeared. Of course, for Republicans, that’s a tradeoff they’re more than willing to make.

Taken together, the bad news is the GOP got the better end of the hostage standoff, and will be in a position to do even more damage in February, when the likelihood of a government shutdown just became stronger.

The good news is the government won’t shutdown tomorrow, and, to the delight of Senate clerks, Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) stunt will be unnecessary.

Also, the demise of the omnibus suddenly clears up some valuable calendar time in the upper chamber, which will be put to good use. More on that soon.