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Senate Is Legislative Graveyard

Byrd’s replacement could also get Democrats within one vote of passing the financial reform bill. Two Republicans — Snowe and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown — who supported the Senate version of the bill have not yet said whether they would support the House-Senate conference report, but the senior Senate Democratic aide said the prospects for finishing the package were looking up since Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced last week that she would reverse her earlier position and support the measure this time.

Senate Democrats are also looking to use July to pass a supplemental war spending measure, change a controversial Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance rules and start a potentially historic debate on climate change, Reid spokesman Jim Manley pointed out. Also on the calendar is the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, which Reid wants to take up before Senators leave for the August recess.

“The fact is, we’ve got an ambitious schedule set up for July. In light of Republican tactics, it remains to be seen what we get done,” he said, adding that McConnell has “laid down the law with his caucus and any deals between now and [Election Day] are going to be difficult to achieve.”

That sentiment is not sitting well in the House, where Democrats believe Senate roadblocks have hamstrung their ability to get on offense on what matters to voters most: jobs and the economy.

“How many times are we going to pass unemployment insurance, and the Senate’s going to block it?” a House Democratic leadership aide fumed late last week just before the House approved a five-month extension of unemployment benefits that has become the latest in a string of similar measures to stall in the Senate.

Still, House Democrats touted major economic victories last week when they voted for $10 billion to help cash-strapped school districts stem teacher layoffs as part of an emergency war supplemental and cleared the financial reform conference report. But the Senate left town before acting on either measure, and Education Department cuts used to pay for the teacher money drew a White House veto threat.

Friday’s lackluster June jobs report brought more unwelcome news for Democrats, who face the difficult task of convincing voters that the billions in government spending they’ve championed over the past 18 months have staved off a much more severe economic downturn. However, Democrats in competitive districts are expected to use the July Fourth recess to continue to tout projects funded under last year’s controversial stimulus package.

Republicans, by contrast, have a comparatively simple message: The economy is still broken and Democrats’ spending policies are to blame.

“The Democrat problem is that it’s obvious to millions of Americans that their economic policies have failed,” House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said.

President Barack Obama sought to counter that narrative last week during a campaign-like speech on the economy in Racine, Wis., during which he took aim at Republicans for blocking unemployment benefits extensions and other aspects of the Democrats’ jobs agenda.

Congressional Democrats are likely to increasingly take aim at Republicans in the coming weeks to try to make the case that GOP gains in November would further undercut their ability to create jobs.

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