Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is telling reporters that he has the votes of two Republicans for his extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits. He also says he is one vote away from having 60 senators to vote for cloture on the bill, which would then move forward to a final vote.
Though there are currently 58 members who caucus with the Democrats, meaning the addition of two Republicans brings the number to 60, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is not in support of Reid’s bill. “If we had Senator Byrd’s replacement we would have 60,” Reid told The Hill. “We have to wait and see what a couple of Republicans do.” The two Republicans are most likely Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, both of whom have signaled they would be willing to vote for a standalone measure.
A Senate Democratic aide says gaining the 60th vote with both Collins and Snowe likely on board is proving extremely difficult — because Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has indicated he will not vote for the proposal. This morning, he released a deficit-neutral version of the unemployment extension bill, paying for the benefits by taking money from the stimulus. If he or another Republican does not come around, Senate Democrats might have to wait until after the July 4 recess — when Sen. Robert Byrd’s replacement is in place — to pass the motion. More than 300,000 unemployed persons would lose extended benefits in the meantime — adding to the 1.2 million current toll.
The cloture vote will likely happen tomorrow. Reid told The Hill the homebuyer tax credit portion of the bill might pass under unanimous consent today.