By JOE RUTHERFORD
Pressure increased with Friday's passage of a temporary new funding resolution for the U.S.. Senate to stop debate and act on a $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill that includes $80 million in earmarks for Mississippi.
The new funding extension expires at mid-week.
Majority Leader Harry Reid filed the necessary motions to have a cloture vote - cutting off debate - to send the Senate toward action, but late Thursday the vote was postponed because only 59 senators supported ending debate. Sixty votes are required. Additional amendment attempts are expected.
The House passed the omnibus bill for fiscal year 2009 on a bipartisan vote Feb. 25. The Senate's bill must agree with the House-passed version to avoid a potential conference committee or another continuing resolution.
The omnibus bill, negotiated across party lines by top committee leadership in both chambers, also contains thousands of earmarks, including the senatorial earmarks for programs, projects and universities in Mississippi.
Earmarks, simply stated, are congressional provisions directing approved funds to be spent on specific projects.
Various media have reported that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she will not allow a vote on an amended version of the omnibus bill. Pelosi said she would support another continuing resolution rather than debate an amended bill. A close vote is expected because some senators in both parties oppose the spending level and earmarks in the bill.
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the ranking member and effectively vice-chairman of the Appropriations Committee, supports passage, and Sen. Roger Wicker, also a Republican, has indicated probable support.
Both Mississippi senators have made earmarks for projects specific to Mississippi, and both also say the spending level is too high. Cochran, however, has said 2009 budget actions must be completed, noting that he and Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, worked closely to craft a fair, passable bill.
Contact Joe Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or (662) 678-1597.