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Reid, McConnell Still in Knots Over Unemployment Bill

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) traded verbal jabs on the Senate floor Thursday over a stalemate that has blocked action on a popular unemployment benefits package. Reid, who tried to clear two executive nominations and pass the unemployment extension, criticized Republicans for stalling after McConnell objected to moving forward. “This is a difficult thing for people to have to wait a week, so I would hope that there would be an agreement to allow us to go forward with this,— Reid said of the unemployment measure.But McConnell reiterated his side’s request to consider three amendments with the bill.“We could enter into a consent agreement to have votes on these three amendments with short time agreements and be through with this bill this afternoon,— McConnell said. McConnell added, “I hope this is not the way the Majority Leader is planning on handling the health care debate.— Reid noted that Democrats have agreed to consider a handful of Republican amendments, including one to extend the homebuyers tax credit. But Reid said a GOP-sponsored amendment to sunset the Troubled Asset Relief Program is problematic. He voiced his opposition and noted that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) opposes including such a provision in the unemployment insurance package. Reid also tried Thursday to move the nominations of Tara O’Toole, tapped to serve as an under secretary in the Department of Homeland Security, and Regina Benjamin, nominated for surgeon general. McConnell objected to both requests. The 18-minute floor exchange was the latest in a weeks-long tussle over the unemployment bill. The unemployment measure would extend benefits from 14 weeks to as many as 20 weeks for the hardest-hit states.“This bill should have been wrapped up three weeks ago,— Reid said. “There’s always just a little something more to do, until time goes on and on and on. It’s obvious that my friends don’t care about the people desperate for money.—