December 6th, 2007
02:00 PM ET
14 years ago

Senate's presidential contenders may face a tough choice

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may put some of the Democratic presidential candidates in awkward spot this weekend.

The Nevada Democrat told reporters Thursday he will schedule a Senate vote on the Energy Bill this Saturday. The bill, which calls for a fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020, passed the House earlier Thursday by a vote of 235-181.

But the vote is expected to be considerably tighter in the Senate, where Republicans have threatened to filibuster the measure and Reid may need to muster at least 60 votes to block that action. To that end, Reid said he has asked the four Senate Democrats running for president – Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Clinton of New York, Barack Obama of Illinois and Chris Dodd of Connecticut – to head back to Capitol Hill Saturday.

But with less than a month to go until the Iowa caucuses – and no clear frontrunner – Reid may have hard time getting the candidates back inside the Beltway.

Obama especially will have a difficult time making the trip to Washington. He and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey are set to make a highly anticipated tour through the Hawkeye State Saturday before heading to South Carolina together on Sunday.

The Senate offices of two of the presidential candidates say they have been told a Saturday vote is only a possibility. So far, none have said they plan to return to Washington that day.

- CNN Congressional Correspondent Jessica Yellin contributed to this report

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Chris Dodd • Hillary Clinton • Iowa • Joe Biden
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Julia - Madison, WI

    I am an undecided Democrat, and any candidate who skips this very important vote will lose a LOT of ground with me.

    December 6, 2007 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  2. Jesse, Burnsville, MN

    Harry Reid did this on purpose to try to make Obama look bad. Just like he did on the Iran vote. He is purposefully trying to make Obama miss votes so that Clinton can try to use it to her advantage. Sound like a conspiracy theory. Well, Harry Reid's son is the head of Clinton's campaign in Nevada. I'm really starting to hate this guy.

    Obama '08

    December 6, 2007 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  3. confused, Lexington, KY

    Can anyone explain to me why they have to be there in person for voting?

    December 6, 2007 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |


    December 6, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. Cora Big Lake AK

    The first consideration all of candidates, be it democrat or republican is to fulfill the requirements to which they were elected. Vote in the senate than go back to campaigning. Just think we will know how they voted on an important issue. I believe to many important votes have been missed.

    December 6, 2007 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  6. Watcher, Tucson AZ

    Harry Reid is in Hillaries pocket.
    He is just trying to cause contriversy
    since they know that The Oprah-Obama Rallies are the next big turning point.
    It's the last dirtiest thing that Hillary can do to try and stop his momentum.
    They will say that he is not concerned about the enviornment he is just concerned about campaining.
    It's a shame.....

    December 6, 2007 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  7. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    ... hey, guys ... you were elected to the Senate to help govern the country.

    Doing that job well is much better than skipping out to shake hands and kiss babies.

    As it is, Obama has missed several important votes – thus staying off the record and being able to attack how other candidates voted.

    If you don't show up to work ... like most of us have to do ... then you won't get my vote.

    December 6, 2007 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. Jessica M., El Paso, TX

    Reid is not trying to make Obama look bad. Wow, the world DOES NOT revolve around him. Congress just has a few weeks to get several bills passed before they go on break. They have their work cut out for them. And on the Iran vote, even Obama said that it wasn't Reid's fault. Obama was just too busy on the campaign trail in New Hampshire too get back to do his job. But then again, missing votes is what Obama has done best, both as a US and Illinois Senator.

    December 6, 2007 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. Kim, Sacramento, CA

    I absoutely agree that the first obligation of these four people is to that of the US Senate. However, I can't help but smell something rotten here... Anybody who is anybody in politics knows the HUGE event in Iowa with Obama and Oprah, and anybody who is anybody in politics knows that the Senate vote can be delayed until Monday, also anybody who is anybody in politics knows that Reid's son holds a high position within the Clinton campaign and Reid himself has shown strong favoritism towards HRC... This stinks through and through.

    Strike a compromise for everyone – take the vote on Monday like you would for anything else that is not an emergency measure (which this is not).

    December 6, 2007 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  10. Miles, LA,CA

    Why Saturday, Harry? Why?

    Very strange time to force a vote. What happened to the week day.

    December 6, 2007 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  11. Markie Bee, Sacramento, Calif.

    The question is why a Saturday? Is there some pressing deadline that has to be met or the car manufacturers will get their way? NO! So once again Sen. Reid, whose son is Hillary's campaign director in Nevada, is messing around with the schedule to embarrass Obama. When Obama is elected president, don't think he won't remember Reid's BS and move to get him replaced as senate leader.

    December 6, 2007 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  12. Independent in IA

    I love it....another missed vote for Osama Obama....has he been available for ANY vote these past few months?

    While I can appreciate the effort that has gone into his upcoming appearance with Oprah Windbag at some football stadium and the several thousand folks planning to attend, it seems to me that doing the job that he is being PAID to do, which is taking care of the 'peoples business' has a far higher priority than schmoozing with an over-rated dip like Windbag. I have no doubt the other candidates will show up, but then experience tells, doesn't it.

    I'd venture to say that keeping your own constituents satisfied that you are doing what they pay you to do should be paramount in your political career.

    December 6, 2007 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  13. Ken, San Diego, CA

    With reference to the Iran non-binding vote; all the other candidates made it back....some of them worked tirelessly to make the language less hawkish...I suspect that Obama did not think much of the resolution (as it was non-binding) therefore did not make an effort to go back to Washington to place his vote. Either way, if he had misgivings with the resolution, he was more than welcome to have said something during the Democratic debate THAT EVENING. Maybe, just maybe he wanted to see which way the winds were blowing (especially considering the fact that he supported - co-sponsored - a similar resolution in April...

    December 6, 2007 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  14. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Does Harry Reid get any questioning on his Mormonism and how it affects his POLITICAL decisions or his politics?

    How many wives does he have or how many pairs of funny underwear?

    Thought so.

    I don't care if he is a Mormon, just like NOBODY should care if Romney is.

    Raise your hand if you didn't know until VERY RECENTLY that Reid was a Mormon?

    Keep em' up. One, two, three, four...

    December 6, 2007 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  15. Larry Sheldon, Omaha, Nebraska

    "The first consideration all of candidates, be it democrat or republican is to fulfill the requirements to which they were elected."

    Wish it was true. First obligation, yes. First responsibility, yes.

    First consideration? Same as last one and middle ones, "How do I get re-elected?"

    December 6, 2007 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  16. Xavier, Washington DC

    A Saturday vote? The same Saturday that Obama has scheduled a major rally in SC? Hmmm. Something smells fishy. Either Obama is forced to miss his rally and alienate a significant African American population in SC or he has to miss the vote which Sen Clinton can use to show that he doesn't care about his current job. Wow. That's pretty slick in a Karl Rove kind of way. I guess Sen Reid is a Clinton fan.

    December 6, 2007 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. Ruth Bethinger, New York, New York

    Folks –

    This isn't even a vote on a bill – it's a vote to vote on a bill. (A cloture motion.) And there's no fundamental reason this needs to happen this weekend, since it's not the actual vote on the bill. I think it's more that Reid is trying to exert some power and work hard for that 11% approval rating.

    December 6, 2007 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  18. Bean Counter, Motor City, MI

    Aren't we paying these people to be in Washington?

    December 6, 2007 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  19. Les WA

    Any democratic candidate who skip the voting this coming Saturday will lose a LOT of grounds from millions of voters

    The democrats needed the vote to stop the GOP opposing the bill to filibuster it.

    Their FIRST duty is to their constituents, second is their campaign. They can go back to their campaign after they cast their vote.

    I called the HQ of the candidate I wanted to be the nominee, one of the staffer told me, they're keeping a close watch, getting update from the senate when it's going to be done so the senator can fly back to DC and cast his/her vote, then back to campaign trail again.

    December 6, 2007 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  20. Kyu Reisch, Radcliff, Kentucky

    Jesse, Burnsville, MN, don't be silly, how could Reid set up Congress schedule only for Obama? Your claim doesn't make sense to me.

    December 6, 2007 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  21. John G. Charleston SC

    I think it's terrible that he would expect these candidates to actually be accountable for the responsibilities which they accepted when they took office. How dare he try to get them to do their jobs?

    As far as I'm concerned they all got a get out of jail free card when they got to skip Harry's Thanksgiving games and junior no name senators presided over the empty senate chambers. If they want this bill to pass they need to (for once) show some party unity and actually show up to work. My tax dollars aren't supposed to pay their salaries while they are campaigning.

    December 6, 2007 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  22. Joe from NC

    Confused in Lexington KY,
    That is just the procedure of congress; you have to be there in person to cast a vote.

    December 6, 2007 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  23. Bob, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

    Hmm, this kinda reminds me of a couple of months ago when Reid (whose kid works for the Clinton campaign) told Obama that there wasn't going to be a vote on the September Iran resolution and then told him there WOULD be only after Obama had traveled out of DC and wouldn't have time to get back and vote. It may not be blatant sabotage, but I don't believe it's only a coincidence. I mean, the same weekend of Obama's big Oprah gig? Come on! I smell sneakiness.

    December 6, 2007 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  24. Rachel, Dallas, TX

    Dirty trick against Obama, and completely transparent. If Reid's goal was actually to pass this important legislation, he'd schedule it at a better time. Instead he's abusing his power to hurt one of his own party's most promising Presidential candidates, possibly harming the bill's chance of passage in the process.

    December 6, 2007 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  25. Winston

    The hypocrisy of Obama, critizing Hillary for voting in favour for the Iranian resolution when he himself had an opportunity to vote but refused to do so.

    Obama must show some courage and leadership. Obama needs to fullfill his obligations as a USA senator. Go vote.

    December 7, 2007 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
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