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60 Votes Still Elude Reid on Jobs Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is pressing ahead with a procedural vote on the first in a series of jobs bills next week, even as it remains unclear whether he has the votes.

Monday evening’s procedural vote to take up Reid’s $15 billion jobs package comes after an eventful weeklong recess. On Feb. 15, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) announced he would not seek re-election, delivering a heavy blow to Democrats already facing a tough election map this cycle. Just a few days later, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was diagnosed with lymphoma of the stomach. While aides expect the 86-year-old to periodically cast votes over the next few months as he undergoes chemotherapy, Lautenberg will not be present for Monday night’s cloture vote on the jobs bill.

Democrats also hope next week to approve short-term extensions of the USA PATRIOT Act, unemployment insurance and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Those provisions were included in a bipartisan jobs package drafted by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), but they did not make it into Reid’s trimmed-down proposal.

Meanwhile, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is expected to lay out the framework for a regulatory reform bill that could see floor action this spring. Dodd has been furiously negotiating with Republicans on legislation that could garner 80 or more votes on the Senate floor, but partisan differences over how to structure a consumer protection agency have continued to rattle talks. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the panel’s ranking member, is working on a Republican alternative to the bill that could splinter the bipartisan support that Dodd is hoping to create with the help of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

Also next week, newly elected Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is expected to receive his committee assignments. Brown was sworn in Feb. 4 and spent part of the Congressional recess attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., where he received a rock star’s welcome.

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