Just hours before a sure-to-fail vote to restore more than $6 billion in funding for military benefits, Senate Democrats and Republicans now appear ready to move the measure forward.
Last week, Democrats had planned a Monday night vote to restore the funding, which was cut as part of December's budget deal. They assumed Republicans would block the bill because it lacked a spending offset and would increase the national deficit.
But by Monday, just hours ahead of the vote, senior Republican and Democratic Senate aides said that they expected the chamber to easily find the required 60 votes to proceed to a debate on reversing the cuts. The ensuing debate on how to unwind the cuts is likely take up most of the week.
The measure, however, still has to clear several hurdles. Republicans are still balking at the lack of a budget offset, and they plan to push for changes to it as it moves forward.
A senior Republican aide said Republicans felt the veterans issue was too important to let pass an opportunity to move the measure forward. So instead of blocking the bill, the aide said, they're trying to force Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow debate on Republican amendments that would pay for the cost of reversing the pension provision.
Several Senate Republicans have rallied around an idea from New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte that aims to close loopholes to prevent undocumented immigrants from enjoying the child tax credit.
Some senior Democrats like Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, of Michigan have preferred a payfor from New Hampshire Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that would close offshore tax loopholes.
Either payfor is considered a nonstarter to the opposite political party.