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Reid Threatens Midnight Vote on Unemployment Insurance Benefit

In the wake of yesterday’s Senate vote on an unemployment insurance extension, there’s been some confusion — including among TWI commenters — about what exactly happened. And what happens next.

Here’s the bad news for those having exhausted their benefits: The vote on cloture to proceed to the bill doesn’t mean that the bill has passed. And there could be a long way to go.

Indeed, Senate leaders are still in disagreement this morning over amendments, with Republicans still insisting on consideration of provisions related to ACORN and immigration — provisions that even GOP leaders concede have nothing to do with the underlying bill.

So what does that mean for those whose benefits have expired? Well, Senate rules dictate that, without an agreement, Democratic leaders must wait at least 30 hours after the cloture vote to proceed (ie, yesterday’s vote) to stage the roll call vote to proceed — meaning the earliest they can do it is 12:26 a.m. Thursday.

Such roll call votes are often scrapped with the consent of both parties — a move that might still happen, but hasn’t happened yet. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took to the chamber floor this morning and threatened to hold that roll call vote, if necessary, at that early hour.

“I hope we can work something out with the Republicans,” Reid said. “But we’re going to have that vote as soon as we can. I’m sorry that we might have to do it in the morning.”

Afterward, if there’s still no agreement, Reid would have to file a cloture motion on the actual bill — meaning, by Senate rules, that the cloture vote couldn’t come earlier than 25 hours after the motion is filed (again, unless an agreement is reached first). Now we’re looking at roughly 1 a.m. Friday morning, at the earliest.

After the cloture vote on the actual bill, then the 30-hour clock starts again, after which time lawmakers could hold their roll call vote on final passage of the bill. Now we’re approaching 8 a.m. Saturday morning.

This is all a long way of saying that, without an agreement over the ACORN and immigration amendments, this thing could take a while longer to pass. And it doesn’ t appear that party leaders are ready to reconcile their differences just yet.

Reid this morning blasted the GOP amendments once again, contending that they’re “only an effort to slow things down.”

The other amendments are vexatious. They are argumentative. We don’t want them. They are not germane. They are not relevant to this legislation.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) responded with the argument that there’s nothing unusual about offering unrelated amendments to must-pass legislation. “This is an unnecessary impasse that we have,” McConnell said.

Everyone knows it’s not uncommon in the Senate, in fact it is routine, for there to be amendments — offered by both sides — that are not directly related to the bill. There’s nothing extraordinary about this.

Complicating matters, the two chambers have different proposals. The House bill, which passed last month, offers a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits, but only in those states where unemployment rates top 8.5 percent. Senate Democrats want to pass a more generous 14-week extension nationwide, with six weeks extra for high-unemployment states.

Party leaders aren’t commenting about how they plan to reconcile the two proposals. In one scenario, House and Senate leaders could meet to iron out the differences, creating a third bill that each chamber would then have to pass. Or the House could choose to vote on the Senate bill, with the legislation going to the president afterward.

“This could go into next week,” Reid’s office warned Wednesday.

Or there could be a deal as early as this afternoon. There are a few hundred thousand Americans with expired benefits who are hoping for the latter.

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