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Senate Has Small Window of Legislative Opportunity

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (left) on Thursday bemoaned a GOP-led delay on the Export-Import Bank reauthorization bill.

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Still, Republicans complain that Democrats have used the floor to gain political advantage with votes on legislation never designed to pass. The Senate GOP aide said that strategy has made it harder to negotiate with Democrats.

Republicans pointed to the efforts last week to pass a bill that would prevent interest rates on Stafford loans from doubling to 6.8 percent beginning July 1.

While both parties want to avoid the interest rate increase, disagreement remains over how to pay for the $6 billion cost.

Democrats have offered a bill that would eliminate a corporate tax loophole that allows wealthy individuals to pay less in Social Security and Medicare taxes.

But Republicans believe that would hurt small businesses and job creation.

They voted against the measure on a procedural vote last week because, they said, they want to spur negotiations between House Republican leaders and Senate Democratic leaders. The House passed a student loan interest rate relief bill that would cover the cost by eliminating a fund in the 2010 health care overhaul that covers prevention and public health ó something Democrats oppose.

Another procedural vote is possible, but Democratic leaders have not said if, or when, it would take place.

Meanwhile, the Senate is set to vote Monday on House-passed legislation that would extend the Ex-Im Bankís charter through Sept. 30, 2014, and incrementally increase its lending cap.

Itís unclear whether the bill will get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster Monday, because Republicans who back the bill might want to support their colleagues who would be denied the right to offer amendments. However, talks have been under way about what amendments the two parties are willing to accept, according to a Senate GOP aide. If an agreement is reached on amendments, the vote may not take place, a Senate Democratic aide said.

Aides from both parties are cautiously optimistic the bill will pass, despite opposition from some conservatives. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) see the bank, which is designed to facilitate the sale of U.S. exports abroad, as wasteful corporate welfare.

The measure, however, is the product of a rare compromise between House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). It passed that chamber 330-93 last week.

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