Reid Backs Off Small-Business Bill, Turns to Education Funding

Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:04pm

Updated: 8:34 p.m.

The Senate left for the week without passing a small-business jobs package that Democrats had hoped to clear.

After ordering Senators to the floor in a rare live quorum call, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blamed Republicans for the impasse and said he was “disappointed that my friends on the other side of the aisle have not been willing to work with us on this.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “We are making some real headway here.”

“There’s support on our side of the aisle for this bill if we can get it right,” he added.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), whom Democrats hoped to win over, blasted Reid’s handling of the small-business bill earlier Thursday and accused him of performing “political theater.”

“It’s not about legislating anymore,” she said.

The impassioned speech rattled Democrats, who unsuccessfully scrambled to make a deal. A procedural vote failed 58-42 along party lines, with Reid switching his vote at the end in order to bring the motion up for consideration another time.

With just one week left until the scheduled start of the August recess, Reid chose to ditch the small-business bill and teed up a Monday night procedural vote on a funding measure for education and state Medicaid programs.

In doing so, he punted action on an energy proposal until later in the week. Democratic aides said Reid could file cloture on that scaled-back measure Monday, with a vote set for Wednesday. It remains unclear whether Reid has the support to clear the 60-vote hurdle for that bill, which has only tepid support among Democrats and staunch opposition from Republicans.

If an energy vote comes up — and fails — on Wednesday, the chamber is expected to pivot to the Supreme Court nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan. She is expected to win Senate confirmation, giving Democrats a victory heading into the five-week recess.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said late Thursday that the Majority Leader plans to hold a vote at 5 p.m. Monday on a bill that would prevent layoffs of teachers and first responders. Reid had wanted to add the language as an amendment to the small-business bill, but Republicans objected.