Drafters Meet Deadline for Stimulus Amendment

Posted February 7, 2009 at 10:29pm

After waiting all day for Senate clerks and legislative aides to draft a key amendment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) late Saturday night finally set the chamber on a procedural path to passing a massive economic stimulus bill by Tuesday afternoon. Senate negotiators had scrambled Saturday afternoon and evening to finalize language in a bipartisan compromise amendment that would slash the $900 billion-plus bill by $108 billion. Reid was able to file the amendment with little more than an hour to spare before the timeline for passage of the measure would be delayed until midweek. Though Reid and the bipartisan sponsors of the plan had originally intended to introduce the proposal at noon Saturday, the drafting process took longer than expected. But Reid said on the floor Saturday night that the holdup was necessary to prevent drafting errors in the 800-page bill. “Everything has to be just right,” Reid said. “We don’t want a problem, anyone raising an issue that one of the numbers is wrong or one of the lines is not where it should be. So for the last 35, 40 hours, people have been working nonstop to get a product, so that we could lay down the amendment.” If the amendment had not been written by midnight Saturday, Democrats might not have been able to hold a key test vote on the amendment Monday afternoon, because procedural motions to end debate, or invoke cloture, require two days to ripen. Immediately after introducing the amendment Saturday night, Reid filed cloture. The delay is not likely to affect support for the measure. After hashing out an agreement Friday to cut $83 billion in spending and $25 billion of the tax provisions out of the bill, all 58 Democrats and at least three Republicans – Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) – indicated they are prepared to help Reid reach the 60 votes he needs to invoke cloture and avoid a GOP-led filibuster of the measure. The next step will be negotiations with House Democrats, who have not been pleased with the massive rewrite in the Senate.