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Reid Gives Baucus Room to Maneuver on Jobs Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is giving Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) plenty of space to craft tax provisions for a bipartisan jobs bill — but Reid is adamant that the package should pass the Senate before the Memorial Day recess, according to Democratic aides.

Some liberal Democrats have privately expressed concern that Baucus’ desire to secure a bipartisan deal could unreasonably delay completion of the next jobs measure, pointing to Baucus’ long, ultimately unsuccessful negotiations with Republicans on health care reform last year.

But a Democratic aide familiar with discussions between Reid and Baucus said the Finance chairman is committed to Reid’s timeline.

Baucus is “deferring to Reid,” the aide said, adding that “Reid is pretty insistent that he wants to do a jobs bill every tranche of this session … [and] I don’t see any reason why his calendar won’t be met.”

In the meantime, the upcoming Senate debate on financial regulatory reform should give Baucus several weeks to complete his work on the jobs bill, Democratic aides said.

Baucus is developing tax provisions that would be added to a small-business package authored by Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chairman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and ranking member Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). The Finance chairman has indicated he would like to hold an actual markup of his provisions, rather than having Reid simply fold them into the Landrieu-Snowe measure before it hits the floor.

“I certainly would like to, yes,” Baucus said Thursday.

But getting a bipartisan deal could be difficult for Baucus: GOP Senators were outraged last time around when Reid scuttled a large, bipartisan jobs package in favor of a smaller measure.

And Snowe said she is “concerned” that history may repeat itself.

“It would concern me if all the sudden they take this package of small-business initiatives and attach it to other initiatives with which we’re not familiar,” Snowe said. “There’s going to be some complication here, not only with me but with others as well, because we should get broad support for this initiative.”

Snowe has not been approached by Reid to negotiate the other items, she said, although Reid called her on Monday to ask whether she would find a new offset for her small-business bill, since the pay-for that she and Landrieu wanted to use was co-opted for the health care reform bill that is now law.

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