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Senate Near Deal to Hold Iraq, Farm Bill Votes Friday

After threatening earlier in the day to remain in session through the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated Thursday afternoon that he was closing in on a deal to have votes on both Iraq War spending and the farm bill Friday morning.

Such an agreement would likely allow Senators to leave town for the two-week Thanksgiving recess by Friday afternoon.

Though both Republican and Democratic aides cautioned that the deal was not set in stone, it appears that Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are likely to agree to vote on two Iraq funding measures and that both would have to receive 60 votes in order to pass.

The Democratic measure, which passed the House Wednesday, would provide $50 billion in supplemental war funding and call for a significant drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of next year, among other things. McConnell’s bill would provide $70 billion in war funding without any conditions on troop levels.

Though Democrats initially appeared disinclined to have a vote on McConnell’s alternative, the Minority Leader forced Reid’s hand by filing a procedural motion that would have necessitated a Saturday vote on whether to proceed to his bill. Reid said earlier today that he was prepared to keep Senators in town through Sunday to vote on the House-passed measure.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican alternative is expected to receive the 60 votes needed for passage.

Meanwhile, the Senate is still scheduled to proceed with a vote to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on the farm bill Friday morning.

Additionally, McConnell and Reid continued to negotiate a way to bring up a bill to make sure that the alternative minimum tax does not hit millions of middle-income Americans it was never intended to affect. A Senate GOP aide said the two leaders may end up agreeing on how to proceed on an AMT patch this week, but that votes on a variety of AMT fixes likely would not occur until after the recess.

The House is expected to adjourn for the recess Thursday night.