Congress faces crunch time to fill the bench

Wednesday - 5/12/2010, 10:51am EDT

Jodi Schneider, senior editor, American Banker

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

An already tight Senate schedule is going to get a lot busier with the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Elena Kagan.

Finding time to address the nomination isn't going to be easy for the Senate and could come at the expense, literally, of funding your agency before the fiscal year expires, according to Congressional expert Jodi Schneider, Senior Editor in the Washington Bureau of the American Banker.

First of all this has to go through the committee in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and then to the Senate floor. Obviously, the House doesn't have a role in this, it's all about the Senate, but the Senate doesn't have a lot of floor time available given that it's a mid-term election year.

Schneider told Federal News Radio to expect the Senate to be gone by the first of October to campaign. "So we're really looking at really a short amount of time - a couple of weeks before the Memorial Day recess. Three weeks then before the July 4th recess and then a really crunched time period of three, four weeks before the August recess. Then they come back, they have a month left."

Schneider doesn't expect the process to get bogged down or stall out because of Republican objections.

I think they (Republicans) realize this is not necessarily an ideological pick. As a matter of fact, some people on the left are saying "well we're not so sure where she stands on some issues" because she doesn't... she has not been a judge before. She does not have a big track record of writing some things. So it may be hard to have much opposition for her given that.

Added into the mix of "must pass" legislation is a $60 billion supplemental appropriation by Memorial Day. It includes funds for warfighting in Afghanistan, replenishing FEMA accounts, and disaster relief for Haiti. Schneider said when and if the bill is taken up by the Senate, it won't be first in line.

First of all, they've been so focused on financial reg reform, that's moving ahead in the Senate, on the Senate floor, but slowly and there's still a lot of pieces of that. That had been viewed as being the big bill besides the appropriations bills to get done before the mid-terms. It doesn't sound like an immigration bill's really going to happen. It doesn't sound like an energy bill's really going to happen, but what's interesting is financial reg reform may be affected by Senate confirmation hearings. Not this round so much, but the House and Senate bills are very different and they're going to have to be reconciled. If the House takes a little bit of time with the financial bill and then it comes back to the Senate at about the same time these confirmation hearings are going on, you could have a crunch. And there have been some folks who have said "well this may be a way for the Republicans to try to delay financial reg reform," saying "Well, God, we just can't get back to it because we're looking at the Supreme Court nominee."

Like most horse races, Schneider said "it could get pretty interesting" and affect appropriations on the way by.

"So it's going to be interesting to watch. A lot to do in a mid-term election year when they're all going to be gone by the beginning of October."