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Analysis: Senate To Limit Defense Bill Debate, 2013 Recess Schedule Set

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The U.S. Senate will continue work today on a defense policy bill that would affect thousands of Pentagon employees and contractors in the D.C. area. Meanwhile, lawmakers play musical offices on Capitol Hill and look ahead to life in the new year. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks with WAMU's Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about what's going on behind the scenes on Capitol Hill.

On what held up the Defense Authorization Bill Friday: "It was … the Senate at its best, which is to say, members were actually proposing changes to the bill and demanding votes on their amendments," Hawkings says. "The top two leaders of Senate Armed Services Committee wanted to allow senators to come to the floor and offer amendments on defense policy, and see how things went … thinking they'd get it done, thinking people would exhaust themselves, but it didn't quite happen, so tonight the Senate will vote to limit debate for 30 more hours."

How this differs from the filibusters that have gotten negative attention in the Senate in recent years: "This is not a traditional filibuster, it should be noted. This is the way it's supposed to work," says Hawkings. "And the coming fight over the filibuster would make sure that this is the way it worked and that there wasn't the stalling tactic even before amendments got started." 

On next year's Congressional recess schedules matching up between both houses: "For the last couple of years, the House Republicans were trying to give their members, many of whom were in tight reelection races from the time they arrived, plenty of time to go back and visit with their constituents," Hawkings says. "And so the schedules were disconnected which was infuriating not only for the Capitol Hill community, but to lobbyists and those of us in the media, who sort of like the old way where there were coordinated breaks. This year it's all coordinated rather than stuffer stepping, the way it's been for a couple of years."

Where outgoing members of Congress are holing up these days: "Well the unlucky who aren't coming back next year, either because they were defeated or are retiring, were told to be out of their offices by last week," Hawkings says. "The comedown is pretty stark. There is now a temporary  cube farm in the basement cafeteria of the Rayburn building, and each lawmaker gets a cube with one high speed internet jack and one telephone line."

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