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McConnell, Reid Negotiating Bailout; Votes Possible Today

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are working toward an agreement on the auto industry bailout measure that would clear the way for votes today or Friday, McConnell said this morning.

“What we would like is a couple of amendments. I understand he might want a couple,” McConnell said after speaking privately with Reid on the Senate floor. “So we’re going to talk about the possibility of getting some kind of consent agreement that gets us votes.”

Despite Reid’s strong indication earlier today that he would only allow votes on a couple of free-standing bills — including a GOP alternative — McConnell said he believes any eventual agreement would be to hold votes on amendments to the Senate version of the bill.

Following a GOP leadership meeting this morning, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) echoed that idea.

“An alternative doesn’t give you consensus. That just gives you cover,” Gregg said. “It would be better to work out a consensus amendment.”

McConnell said that there is considerable support in his Conference for a proposal floated by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

In floor remarks, McConnell said he would not back the Senate bill, which was brokered with the White House and Democrats.

The Senate bill’s “greatest single flaw is that it promises taxpayer money today for reforms that may or may not come tomorrow,” McConnell said. “We simply cannot ask the American taxpayer to subsidize failure.”

Earlier Thursday, Reid presented Republicans with a take-it-or-leave-it proposal on the auto industry bailout bill, saying he would allow a vote on an alternative GOP measure, the Senate bill and the measure passed overwhelmingly in the House Wednesday night.

Reid said that if Republicans refuse his offer and filibuster the bill in a test vote set for Friday morning, the Senate would abandon its efforts to pass the rescue plan this year.

“If there’s no agreement reached on [what to vote on], then we have danced this tune long enough,” Reid said on the Senate floor. He added later, “If we’re not allowed to proceed on that, then we’ll be through with this.”

Reid said he had already made efforts to include GOP Senators in weeks-long negotiations with House Democrats and the White House, but that he was rebuffed.

“We have done our very best to include everyone who wants to be included in this,” Reid said. “There was a decision made that the minority would not participate.”

McConnell acknowledged today that he declined invitations to join the talks as well as a suggestion to send a proxy to represent his Conference. “My view was it was a product I was not likely to be able to support and it would not have been improved by participation,” McConnell told reporters. “With the passage of time, a better alternative is developed.”

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