Senate Democratic leaders were hoping Thursday night to set a vote on the final version of an economic stimulus bill for late Friday afternoon or evening, even as Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and other Republicans were insisting on reading the massive measure before voting on it.
Its not going to happen until weve read the bill and read the report language, Coburn said of the vote.
Democrats had yet to finalize the bill language or file it in either chamber as of 7 p.m. Thursday, and Coburn's insistence that he have the opportunity to read the full bill dashed leaders' hopes of scheduling a vote Thursday evening or Friday morning.
Democrats need the consent of all Senators to bypass time-consuming procedural hurdles, and Senate leaders now believe a vote can be held Friday afternoon or evening.
Because of Democratic absences and the narrow vote margin, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been seeking to vote before the start of the weekend. But it became clear Thursday evening that Republicans would not allow Reid to quickly bring the measure to a vote when the language is actually finalized.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is not expected to return for the vote because of the strain on his health. He has been battling a brain tumor. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was not expected to be available for votes from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon because he would be attending funeral services for his mother, who died a week and a half ago.
But Senate leaders were trying to coordinate with Brown to ensure that he would be present for votes on Friday evening.
Without Kennedy and Brown, Reid would not have the 60 votes necessary to overcome Republican procedural objections. Only three Senate Republicans Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) have supported the measure to date, and Reids attempts Thursday to pad the vote with more Republicans have so far been unsuccessful.
With all 58 members of the Democratic caucus present on Tuesday, the bill barely passed with 61 votes.