Reid open to GOP amendments on unemployment benefits extension
Solidarity was the key factor in this particular tug of war. Republicans refused to consider a 3 month extension of unemployment benefits unless it was paid for with cuts to the budget. Senate Majority Leader initially refused to consider that formula, but now believes there are enough GOP votes to pass the extension if he gives in and allows amendments to the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says he is now open to considering Republican amendments to a bill extending emergency unemployment benefits through most of 2014.
On Thursday, Reid clashed with several Republicans after saying he didn't want to consider any changes to an amended version of the bill. Reid's amendment paid for an 11-month extension by extending the sequester for another year, into 2024.
Republicans have other ideas on how to pay for the benefits, but Reid dismissed them.
"We get nowhere with dueling amendments," Reid said. "We have learned that in the past. Dueling amendments don't do the trick."
But on Friday, a spokesman for Reid said Democrats would allow some limited number of germane amendments to the bill when it comes up next week.
"Senator Reid has continued speaking with his Republican colleagues since yesterday afternoon and informed them that he is absolutely willing for the Senate to consider a reasonable number of relevant amendments from Republicans," spokesman Adam Jentleson said.
Six Republicans joined Democrats in a procedural vote to advance the unemployment bill earlier this week. But Reid's objection to any amendments seemed to threaten their support for advancing the bill any further.
Republican ideas for paying for the extension include new safeguards to prevent non-citizens from getting a child tax credit, prohibiting simultaneous Social Security disability insurance payments and unemployment insurance, and delaying ObamaCare.
However, Jentleson said Republicans need to shelve non-germane ideas related to ObamaCare.
"He hopes Republicans will get serious about passing this emergency legislation and stop trying to distract from the issue at hand with more tired attacks on Obamacare and other unrelated issues," he said. "At the end of the day, the most important thing is keeping faith with those who are struggling to make ends meet, and they expect us to rise above partisan squabbling."
Extending the sequester was a non-starter. No one expects the sequester to last through this year much less 10 years from now. But Republicans are having problems coming to grips with what they want to achieve to cut $6 billion from the budget to pay for the extension.
The cuts have to be palatable to conservatives, which means they have to achieve real savings this year. So far, there has been a lack of ideas on where the cuts should come from. Reid would prefer small cuts from a few programs while some conservatives would like to take a whack at entitlements. Not much chance of that.
It's possible this will all work itself out by the end of the week and a vote will be taken. Swift passage in the House is likely given the number of Republicans who have already indicated they will support it.