Budget Vote Draws Presidential Hopefuls to Senate

All three presidential candidates showed up for work Thursday at the U.S. Senate. Their mission: Be there for the budget resolution, so they can campaign on their votes. How long has it been since they've appeared at the Senate? And what have they missed?

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The future president of the United States made a campaign trail pit stop today at the U.S. Senate. Now, we don't know whether that president will be Barack Obama, John McCain or Hillary Clinton, but for the first time in nearly five months, all three of those senators showed up for work today on Capitol Hill.

NPR's David Welna was there too and has this report.

DAVID WELNA: When you sign on as a co-sponsor of an amendment, especially when it's one you intend to campaign on, it's bad form not to show up when the Senate votes on it, which is why, for the first time since last October, all three top presidential contenders were on the Senate floor today. It was McCain who first signed on as a co-sponsor of the amendment, which puts a one-year moratorium on all Congressional earmarks. Then Obama signed on. Not to be outdone, so did Clinton. McCain had hoped for an early vote on the measure so he could dash off to a fundraiser in Philadelphia but the Democrats who run the Senate refused to accommodate the GOP's presidential finalist. McCain's amendment would have to get in line behind dozens of others the Senate's voting on for the annual budget in a ritual known as votorama.

Unidentified Woman: Mr. Chambliss, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Coburn, Mr. Martinez, Mr. McCain, Mrs. McCaskill, Mr. Nelson of Nebraska, Mr. Obama, Mr. Pryor.

WELNA: Roll call votes kept all three presidential contenders biding their time today on the Senate floor. Obama clearly arrived in campaign mode. The first thing he did was huddle in a corner with Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. It's probably safe to assume the topic of this mini-summit was how those states' delegates might be seated at the Democratic national convention and just whom they should represent. Meanwhile, Clinton and McCain also found time to chat. It's not clear whether they discussed who'd be the better commander in chief. Later, Obama approached Clinton and escorted her with an arm lightly over her shoulder to a pair of Senate desks, where the two stand three minutes chatting. What they said we may never know. Suffice it to say that for a day, fierce campaign rivalry seem to yield to the more gentile ways of this club of 100.

David Welna, NPR News, The Capitol.

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