‘Change Has Come to the Senate’ After Collapse of Massive Spending Bill, Republican Declares

By Fred Lucas | December 17, 2010 | 10:26 AM EST

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CNSNews.com) – "We just saw something extraordinary on the floor of the United States Senate," Sen. John McCain said Thursday night after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) – lacking enough votes – gave up on a trillion-dollar, 1,924-page omnibus spending bill that included $8 billion in pork barrel spending.

Reid’s decision to pull the bill caught some senators by surprise – including the new Republican senator from Illinois, who now occupies the seat once held by Barack Obama.

“Just as the most junior member -- for those of us who do not understand what just happened -- did we just win?” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), asked Sen. McCain.

A smiling McCain (R-Ariz.) responded: “I think there is very little doubt that the majority leader of the United States Senate would not have taken the action he just took if we did not have 41 votes to stop this monstrosity.”

Kirk followed up: “So for economic conservatives, a 1,924 page bill just died?”

McCain: “A 1,924 page bill just died.”

Kirk: “And 6,000 earmarks will not now move forward?”

McCain (a longtime opponent of pork barrel spending): “Yes, and I feel badly about some of those earmarks because I had so much fun with them.”

Kirk said the defeat of the trillion-dollar-plus legislation – 12 spending bills rolled into one -- is a significant turning point when it comes to fiscal restraint.

“All of the GOP senators just signed a letter to the leadership this morning saying that we should not move forward with this as representatives of the new mandate,” Kirk said. “And it seems change has come to the Senate tonight with the death of this $1.1 trillion plan.”

McCain agreed, “I have no doubt.”

To keep the government running in the short term, Senate leaders will now come up with a continuing resolution. That turns major spending decisions over to the next Congress.

While Republicans captured the House in November, Democrats maintained a majority in the Senate – albeit a slimmer one. Coming into the current lame duck session, Republicans hold 42 seats, given the addition of Kirk in a special election.