Policy

Reid Open to Amendment Deal on Jobless Aid Bill

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There may be a glimmer of hope for extended jobless benefits legislation to emerge from the black hole that opened Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is making it clear he's open to allowing amendment votes on the unemployment measure, which became a serious point of contention Thursday.

"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," Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said in a statement Friday.

"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," Jentleson 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."

Republicans have frequently criticized Reid for selecting which GOP amendments get votes.

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., signaled Thursday that Republicans might try to make an offer for amendments with set time agreements.

"We've had several discussions here during these votes, and we are looking at the possibility of coming back with a proposal and ... that proposal has to allow us to offer some amendments," Coats said. "We can hone those down, we can put time limits on them. Sen. Reid can't use 'We are obstructing and dragging this out and bogging down the Senate' if we put time limits [on them.]"

Coats was among the Republican senators who voted in favor of limiting debate on taking up the original offering of a three-month unemployment insurance extension assembled by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev. Coats said at the time it would give an opportunity for a debate about offsets.

The offset package Democrats offered up Thursday was not a bipartisan compromise. It would extend the expanded jobless assistance for about 11 months, with the biggest included savings falling outside of the 10-year budget window. If no agreement is reached, the Senate is due to hold a debate-limiting cloture vote on that amendment Monday evening, with little hope of success.

"Next week I think this will get resolved in some form or fashion," an optimistic Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Thursday.