Washington (CNN) – If you thought the quick agreement on a recent tax cut bill meant bipartisanship was taking hold in the Senate, brace yourself for whiplash as the chamber turns to several hotly contested bills Democrats want to clear before adjourning - a legislative push that has left Republicans fuming.
First up will be the New START nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia, which key Republicans are working to block – primarily, they argue, because there is not enough time left in the lame duck congressional session to debate the issue adequately. Formal consideration of the far-reaching treaty begins Thursday morning.
However, by the afternoon, according to a Democratic leadership aide, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to shelve the treaty temporarily so that senators can begin debating a giant spending bill. Many Republicans oppose the bill, which would fund the government next year, describing it as too expensive and loaded with controversial earmarks.
Reid needs to turn to the spending bill because the government runs out of money Saturday. Complicating things, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, in an act of protest against the measure, is insisting a clerk read aloud on the Senate floor the billl's nearly 2,000 pages, word for word, before any votes are allowed. That could take about 50 hours, according to Reid's office. If the Senate goes overnight, it would finish the bill's reading Saturday afternoon.
Once the reading is complete, the Senate would turn attention back to the nuclear arms reduction treaty. According to the Democratic leadership aide, debate will continue on the treaty possibly until 1 a.m. Monday morning. At that point they'll turn back again to the spending bill and have a procedural vote that could clear the way for a final vote later in the week.
Before finishing the lame duck session, Reid has also vowed to take up a repeal of the military's policy barring gay men and lesbians from openly serving – passed by the House Wednesday night - and an immigration measure called the DREAM act. Most Republicans strongly oppose both.