ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Clinton, Obama, McCain walk into the Senate…haven’t heard this one? No one has for quite some time.
It’s been five months since the final three contenders for the presidency in 2008 have attended to their day jobs and voted at the same time in the Senate.
The annual budget — in which senators decide where to put U.S. tax dollars to work — drove the candidates from the campaign trail, each of the canceling campaign events to be present in Washington.
Journalists crammed into the Senate press gallery to watch Clinton and Obama as they voted, anticipating another snub, like the one observed during the President’s final State of the Union address January 29th.
Obama’s name was called at 11:19 am while Clinton barely made it into the chamber to vote just after 11:30 am.
En route from Chicago to DC, Obama spoke about the anticipated dynamic with Clinton on the Senate floor.
“I’m sure we will both be effusive and make sure that we shake hands,” Obama told reporters before adding, “I’m sure that both she and I are probably glad that we can step back from the one primary a week pace and actually think a little bit, which is something that has been hard to do. It’s been so frenetic. Now’s a good time to be able to step back and you know, think about where we’ve been and I would say make midcourse adjustments, but it’s not midcourse.”
But presidential politics seemed to invade the Senate chamber along with the candidates.
Off the C-SPAN cameras in the chamber, Obama was locked in deep conversation for ten minutes or more with Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who just so happen to represent the two states debating a re-do of their primaries.
Clinton ignored the conversation as she walked by it. Both Stabenow and Nelson are Clinton supporters.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., joined the conversation toward the end. He has not endorsed a candidate, but his brother, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., is for Clinton.
According to Senate records, McCain last voted on February 13th, when he voted in favor of the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act. It would have looked bad for McCain to miss that vote; he sits on the Indian Affairs Committee and is a former chairman.
The last time Obama pointed his thumb downward in the direction of the Senate clerk and voted “no” on a cloture motion with regard to the Senate’s version of a bill to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He was in the minority on the 69-29 vote.
He and McCain were seen greeting each other that day on the Senate floor.
Clinton missed votes in the Senate on February 12th even though she was in Washington campaigning ahead of the so-called Potomac Primary contests in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia that day.
The last time the former first lady case a vote was on Feb. 6th when she and Obama both supported cloture on a more generous version of the economic stimulus bill than the one that eventually passed.
Clinton, through a surrogate, criticized McCain for missing that vote. But she missed the vote on final passage of the stimulus bill that ultimately became law. Neither vote was close enough to have been swayed by the Presidential candidate.
The last time all three senators voted on the same measure was October 24, 2007, on the confirmation of a controversial judicial nominee, Leslie Southwick of Mississippi to be United States Circuit Judge for the 5th Circuit.
Obama and Clinton both opposed the nomination, McCain supported it, and Southwick was confirmed 59-38.
On deck on Tuesday is a “vote-a-rama” — a series of votes allow multiple opportunities for the candidates to cross paths.
First up was an amendment that would make permanent several tax provisions set to expire in 2010.
They’ll keep going on and off all day long, perhaps into the wee hours before passing the non-binding fiscal guideline, almost surely on a party line vote.
The big amendment to keep an eye on is one offered by Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina to plate a one year moratorium on “congressionally directed spending” a.k.a “earmarks.”
All three presidential candidates support the measure, even if the two Democrats dog-eared some combined 314 earmarks worth almost $400 million last year ($266 million for Clinton and $126 million for Obama).
It’s also notable that Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-WVa., who was hospitalized in recent weeks, first after a fall and later for a bad reaction to antibiotics, dragged himself out of his hospital bed and is in the chamber in a wheel chair to vote.
ABC News’ Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.