Senate Democrats used a news conference today to rip Republicans for holding up a bill to extend unemployment benefits, arguing GOP objections would require too much floor time to resolve if they moved the bill directly to the Senate floor.
Democrats also said they did not want to attach an amendment extending an $8,000 homebuyer tax credit to the unemployment bill because it would complicate passage of the broader measure.
HUD Secretary Donovan, testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, declined to endorse proposals to extend the credit, indicating reluctance by the White House and some Senate Democrats. (See related story.) That puts the administration and those senators at odds with Senate Majority Leader Reid, who backs the homebuyer extension.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin and Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said Republicans were "playing politics" with the unemployment measure.
Democrats have tried multiple times to use unanimous consent to advance a bill to extend expiring jobless benefits in all states for 14 weeks and another six weeks in high unemployment states, but Reid has not moved the bill to the floor over [changed from earlier version] GOP objections. Democrats blamed the bill's failure to advance on Republicans offering unrelated amendments.
Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Thune, R-S.D., have offered amendments on Troubled Asset Relief Program management; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has an amendment on the E-Verify system to curb employment of illegal immigrants; Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb., have amendments related to funding for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and Minority Leader McConnell is proposing a tax cut amendment.
"We would hope that they would join us in recognizing that this extension is too important to be delayed any longer," a spokeswoman for Reid said about the amendments.
Asked why Democrats could not use their 60 votes to force the bill through over GOP objections, Reed and Schumer said GOP objections would require too much floor time to overcome.
"It would take a whole week," Schumer said.
Democratic leaders also appear to be balking at an amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., that would extend the $8,000 housing tax credit and expand it to cover all homebuyers, not just first-time purchasers.
Reed said that the measure "should be brought up" but should not be attached to the jobless bill if it delays passage of the measure.
McConnell and Reed have predicted the bill will pass in coming weeks, but neither side has said how the impasse will be solved.
A McConnell aide said Republicans are not backing off their insistence on amendments.