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Posted at 11:41 a.m. on April 3, 2014
Updated, 3:34 p.m. | Senate Democratic leaders are weighing an offer from Senate Republicans to agree to a vote on one catchall amendment, including authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline, in exchange for finishing work on an unemployment insurance extension bill today.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said they believe wrapping several Republican amendments into one has the effect of “watering down” their efforts to score political points.
“The fact that we are considering this at all, I think, shows that their gotcha amendments have lost their punch,” the aide continued.
The proposal would likely have a 60-vote threshold, the aide said, but stressed it was still being finalized. Passage of the amendment would be unlikely since Democrats control 55 votes in the chamber.
If a deal is reached, Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., would likely set up a vote on their paycheck equity bill for Tuesday, which is recognized as Equal Pay Day by the National Committee on Pay Equity, a coalition including women’s and civil rights organizations.
Along with authorizing the Keystone pipeline, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the amendment would include his proposal that would block carbon emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.
He said it would also include a provision scrapping the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices under the Affordable Care Act, and eliminate language in the law that defines the full time employees as those that work 30 hours a week. (Update: The voting deal fell apart, but the legislation advanced 61-35 late Thursday. Final passage vote will now take place Monday.)
The Republican-run House today is considering its own legislation addressing the full-time definition issue.
The GOP amendment would also include tax proposals, such as a provision making permanent the $500,000 expensing limit for small businesses, and would also permanently expand cash accounting to firms with annual gross receipts of up to $10 million.
It would further require agencies to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and consider alternatives to proposed regulations, and require advanced public notice of major rulemakings with greater than $100 million in annual costs. The GOP proposal also includes the House-passed SKILLS Act, which reforms and streamlines federal worker training programs.
Senate Republicans have been pressuring Democrats to allow them to offer amendments to the unemployment extension package. On Wednesday, Republicans sought unanimous consent to attach their amendments to the bill, but each time Democrats objected.
Democrats have been reluctant to allow amendments to the bill, in part because it has the 60 votes needed to pass. The measure was negotiated over months between five Democrats and five Republicans. Attaching a controversial amendment could bring down the whole bill.
“The Senate needs to be allowed to function again,” McConnell said. “When members file amendments on behalf of their constituents, those amendments should get due consideration. That’s particularly true when those amendments have bipartisan support and aim to address our still ailing economy and the families struggling in it.
“My hope is that our Democrat colleagues will allow this to happen,” he said.
Follow our coverage of the unemployment insurance extension proposals: