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September 1, 2014

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Harry Reid: Congress will ‘get it done,’ even if it means working into new year

Well, he said it: Congress may go through Christmas.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered a pre-Christmas lump of coal that could last through the whole holiday season: Yes, he knows everyone’s itching to get home, but he’s prepared to have them hunker down through the new near, if that’s what it takes to finish his agenda.

“There’s still Congress after Christmas,” he said. “We’re not through ... Congress ends on Jan. 4. We’re going to continue working on this stuff until we get it done.”

So what’s “this stuff”? At this point, the list is fairly finite. Congress is slogging through a tax bill, but odds are good that the framework on the table will pass the Senate, either around midnight tonight or first thing Wednesday morning.

Once that happens, the Senate will take up ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which Obama signed with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earlier this year. Reid says he’s got the 67 votes to get it approved, once it’s been discussed.

The Senate’s then expected to spend the balance of the week — and that includes the weekend, folks — toggling back and forth between START and hashing out a federal budget, which has to be done by the end of the day Dec. 18th (that’s when the government officially runs out of money).

Something Las Vegas watchers will want to note especially: that calendar likely means that we’ll have a verdict on the fate of online poker by Saturday night. Lawmakers say the only viable vehicle for such a policy change is a big bill, and since the tax bill is effectively off the table, the budget omnibus package appears to be the last chance to go through.

But that’s not all: the rest of Reid’s roster includes a repeal of the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy against gays serving openly in the military; the DREAM Act — a bill to give young undocumented military enlistees and college students a shot at citizenship; funding health care for 9/11 responders; confirming a whole list of judicial appointees; and apparently a lands bill — Reid threw that one into the mix this afternoon.

Adding all that up, it’s still technically possible for lawmakers to get out of Washington in time to hang stockings by the chimney with care back in their districts; but that’s if there are no glitches and Republicans agree to move items without availing themselves of procedural delays — which is not too likely an expectation, considering that Republicans as a caucus vehemently oppose some of those programs ranking further down the list.

“We are going to complete our work no matter how long it takes,” Reid said.

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