Covering Hot News on the Hill a Waiting Game


Congressional reporters inside the U.S. Capitol Thursday evening were excited as Sept. 30 wound down. In the next few hours, the hottest news in the nation was scheduled to break right there in the House and Senate.

To wit: preventing a government shutdown before the budget expired officially on Oct. 1 at 12:01 a.m.; a firmly promised Thursday vote by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the bipartisan Senate-passed $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill; and a definitive decision whether or not to connect the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill vote, with a vote for the as-yet-unfinished $3.5 trillion President Biden’s  “Build Back Better” social infrastructure bill.  

Reporters were ready in the galleries to cover the floor actions and question the legislators as they left.

By 8 p.m., both chambers had passed an extension of the federal budget deadline avoiding a partial (and minimal) shutdown of some government services. The president was expected to sign it immediately (he did). Then came the waiting game for the infrastructure bill.

9 p.m.  — Masked reporters from the Senate press gallery hung around the Senate floor entrances on the second floor, snagging interviews from Senate leaders including Tim Kaine of Virginia (masked) and Bernie Sanders of Vermont (unmasked), both of whom repeated Democratic talking points about the importance of both bills.

Schumer remained on the floor for various confirmation votes. He did not seem eager to leave and negotiate infrastructure.

9:30 p,m. — Masked reporters leaned against walls and sat on steps and banisters outside the double entrance with a closed door bearing a gold plaque, “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.”

“Any sign of life?” I asked. “Oh, she’s in there,” the reporters replied, looking up briefly from their cell phones. The uniformed guard shifted his weight against the door frame and said nothing.

“Can I interview you?” a bored TV crew member asked me, as I passed their stakeout. LOL.

10 p.m. — “Pelosi is at the White House,” reported Congressional press gallery staff from a in-house source. There are several exit doors inside the elaborate Speaker’s office to different floors and the outside that the Speaker can use to come and go without bothering the inked-stained wretches outside the office.

10:30 p.m  — More than a dozen TV monitors in the House press gallery showing different news channels and C-SPAN. Sen. Joe Manchin, the self-identified always-a-Democrat-never-a-liberal reiterated that he would not consider voting for a social infrastructure bill that was more than $1.5 trillion. He said Pelosi had promised moderate Democrats a vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday, then delayed to Thursday. That deal was not happening tonight, he said. Clips from earlier interviews showed that Democratic progressives continued to insist that Pelosi promised them a vote on both bills together.

Reporters sighed as pundits announced it seemed Pelosi was “throwing in the towel” that night. But in an administrative move, she did not close the session. The House of Representatives remained in session through the night, making any action taken on Friday officially to happen in the Thursday session.

On Friday morning, there were rumors that Pelosi would order the work be continued over the weekend. Whether or not that was to count as Thursday was not clear.

“That’s democracy,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters., when asked about the day that never quite ended.

Sen Tim Kaine (D-Va.) at Capitol Sept. 30. Photo by Peggy Sands.

Outside the Speaker’s office. Photo by Peggy Sands.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) meets reporters the night of Sept. 30 at the Capitol. Photo by Peggy Sands.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) meets reporters the night of Sept. 30 at the Capitol. Photo by Peggy Sands.

The U.S. Capitol on the night of Sept. 30. Photo by Peggy Sands.

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