Reid Scolds GOP for Delaying Unemployment Insurance Vote

Posted July 21, 2010 at 10:14am

Updated: 12:09 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans on Wednesday of further delaying an extension of unemployment benefits and sought to shame the GOP into moving faster to a final vote.

The Nevada Democrat noted that although Tuesday’s 60-40 procedural vote on the measure all but assures its eventual passage, Republicans are running out the clock of post-cloture time that tees up a final vote at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

“During those 30 hours, not a single letter or a single number in the bill will change. In other words, we have to wait more than a day before we can see if half of the Senate supports the exact same bill more than half of the Senate supported the day before,” Reid said. “The minority —which, it is worth repeating, has already lost the debate and the vote on this issue — has decided to squeeze out every last second of that time, until they have no more tools at their disposal.”

The White House joined the fray, issuing a statement Wednesday urging Senate Republicans to let the bill advance quickly. “The livelihoods of nearly 3 million Americans shouldn’t hinge on partisan game playing in Washington,” the White House stated. “This latest move gives the partisan minority thirty more hours to stall in the Senate, but that means thirty more hours of suffering for these hardworking families trying to get by.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats were pursuing failed economic policies that created the high unemployment numbers and the need for continued extensions of benefits.

“For more than a year and a half, the president and his Democrat allies on Capitol Hill have pushed an anti-business, anti-jobs agenda on the American people in the form of one massive government intrusion after another,” McConnell said, directing his strongest criticism at the financial regulatory reform measure that will be signed into law Wednesday.

While Democrats have continued charging that extending unemployment benefits is long past due, Reid is also feeling the crunch for floor time as several other priorities await action before the chamber adjourns for the August break. The Senate will move to a small-business package next, which could require additional procedural votes if Reid introduces a substitute that is the result of ongoing talks with GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George LeMieux (Fla.).

Both sides continued negotiating Wednesday morning to schedule an earlier final vote on the unemployment insurance package, although Republicans want votes on a handful of motions they filed Tuesday night. The House will also have to pass the unemployment measure before it can go to the president for his signature.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Coburn made clear he would not allow the vote to happen without a fight. In an unusual move, the Oklahoma Republican filed two motions to suspend the Senate’s rules — the first would force a vote to fully pay for the bill, while the other would require the Senate to set up a website listing the total cost of legislation that has been passed since pay-as-you-go rules were approved earlier this year.

A GOP aide called Coburn’s motions an effort to “circumvent Sen. Reid’s legislative blockade” of Republican amendments to pay for the bill.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley, however, accused Coburn and his fellow Republicans of “declaring an all-out war on unemployed Americans.”

John Stanton contributed to this story.