Senate Democrats expect to fall short of 60 votes again as they try to move the third version of a smaller "extenders" bill of tax breaks, unemployment benefits extension and other measures in a vote tonight or Friday morning.
Senate Majority Leader Reid filed cloture Wednesday night on a new substitute amendment that was trimmed by about $22 billion by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus in an effort to win over holdouts. The vote on the measure is set for Friday, but Democrats are seeking an agreement to vote tonight.
With Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., appearing to remain opposed to the bill, Democrats are looking for two Republican votes. Their efforts have focused on GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. Collins appears to be a potential "yes" vote, particularly if other GOP backing emerges, but Democrats appear to have failed to win over Snowe.
With another lost vote on the bill appearing likely, Democrats have ratcheted up attacks on GOP resistance to the bill, focusing on opposition to extending unemployment insurance without a pay-for.
"We can't pass it until we get some Republicans," Reid said today. "It's up to them."
Reid said he will keep the extenders package intact and not attach parts of it to other bills.
Should the cloture vote fail, Reid said he will move to a bill backed by Snowe and Senate Small Business Chairwoman Mary Landrieu aimed at boosting small business hiring. Although Senate Minority Whip Kyl will likely push for a vote on an amendment on the estate tax during the small business debate, Reid said he will not allow any provision dealing with that matter to be part of the bill.
In other news, the Senate today was debating a conference report on an Iran sanctions bill that Reid hopes to pass by unanimous consent. Aside from that and extenders, there are a few other big-ticket items that Senate and House leaders hope to resolve as they head into the final week before the Fourth of July break. Chief among them is a conference report on a financial regulatory reform bill due to reach the House floor by Wednesday.
Majority Leader Hoyer has said he also hopes lawmakers will pass a budget proposal next week that includes a deeming resolution setting discretionary spending for FY11 before the break. House Budget Chairman John Spratt said that package would likely be included in an emergency spending bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which Defense Secretary of Gates has urged be passed by July 4.
House Speaker Pelosi wants the supplemental done by next week, but she has stopped short of guaranteeing completion.
Defense officials, who initially requested the money for war-related expenses by Memorial Day, say the military would soon begin to feel the budgetary impact of inaction if the supplemental is not soon completed.
The Senate passed its $59 billion version of the supplemental in late May. But it did not include the $23 billion included in an initial $84 billion House version to prevent teacher layoffs, an amount House leaders are looking to scale back. They also are looking to split the bill into two parts, allowing anti-war Democrats to vote against the war funding but for emergency spending such as the teacher money.
House Democratic leaders are still trying to figure out how to respond to a Senate move last week to pass a six-month fix to cover Medicare physician payments.
Pelosi previously vowed not pass a stand-alone "doc fix," but she might relent if the Senate fails to pass the larger extenders bill.
Pelosi has also given chairman of key House committees until the end of next week to submit proposed legislation dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. She has said votes will be scheduled on those when lawmakers return from the break.
This article appears in the June 26, 2010 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.