By Corey Boles, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. Senate is expected to cast a strong bipartisan vote to clear a key procedural hurdle on a bill to set the Pentagon's budget, but lawmakers won't do so until the early hours of Friday morning.
In a bid to delay the possibility of votes on sweeping health care legislation, the Republican minority is forcing all 30 hours of debate on the defense spending bill. That time expires at 1 a.m. EST Friday, when lawmakers will have to return to the Capitol to vote for the bill.
That will start another 30 hour clock ticking, with a final vote on the Pentagon budget bill then expected sometime early Saturday morning.
The delaying tactics are evidence of the poor state of relations between Republican and Democratic lawmakers as a potential vote on health care legislation inches closer.
Wednesday afternoon, Republicans invoked their right to hear any amendment read out in full by the clerk of the Senate.
The amendment they chose to invoke the right on was a more than 750 page measure introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.).
As the clerk entered his third hour of reading, Sanders withdrew the amendment, bringing the reading to a close.
As for the defense bill itself, a near unanimous vote is expected. Sen. Russ Feingold (D., Wis.), an ardent opponent of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is expected to vote against the measure, but he won't likely be joined by many other senators.
It lays out $636 billion for the Pentagon for the remaining 10 months of fiscal 2010. Once it is approved on Saturday, it will complete Congress' must- pass spending duties, more than two months after the beginning of the fiscal year.
The bill also includes short-term extensions of a number of expiring federal programs, deferring decisions on whether to reauthorize them until the end of February. These include a two month extension of federal jobless benefits and subsidies to people who lost their medical insurance when they were laid off. The federal highway program is also extended for another two months.
The House voted Wednesday to approve the legislation, meaning it will go to President Barack Obama for his signature if the Senate, as expected, approves it on Saturday.
-By Corey Boles, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6601; email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
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