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Reform Vote Looms in Senate; Message War Continues in House

Senate Democrats hope to clear a procedural hurdle Monday night to begin considering financial regulatory reform legislation, but whether they will be successful remains unclear.

Republicans have pledged to vote against Monday evening’s cloture motion and withhold their support until a bipartisan deal is reached. Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), were expected to continue working through the weekend to try to reach a bipartisan agreement on the legislation, and while their rhetoric has grown increasingly optimistic, a deal by Monday’s 5 p.m. vote is unlikely.

If Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) secures the 60 votes needed to proceed to regulatory reform, the Senate will consider amendments and debate the bill for the week — and likely several weeks to come. Otherwise, the chamber could move to consider a handful of nominations while Dodd and Shelby continue to hone a bipartisan deal.

The House next week will continue at the comparatively low-key pace it has adopted since completing work on health care legislation last month.

The chamber will consider legislation authorizing Puerto Rico to hold a referendum polling its residents on whether they wanted to maintain their current political status as an unincorporated territory. Pedro Pierluisi, who represents the island in the House as its at-large resident commissioner, said in a statement that passage of the legislation would mean that “the people of Puerto Rico finally have the opportunity to express themselves about the Island’s political status in a congressionally-authorized vote.”

The House also will consider next week a bipartisan proposal to bolster and modernize the Pentagon’s acquisition procedures. The bill is the product of a yearlong probe — commissioned by the Armed Services Committee — of the Defense Department’s acquisition practices. Democratic leaders are touting the bill as a way to save taxpayers’ money.

Meanwhile, both parties will continue their public relations campaigns on jobs and the economy. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said last week that the Democrats’ “No. 1 priority has been and continues to be the progress on creation of jobs,” adding that the chamber likely would consider a small business lending bill and could attempt to complete action on a long-term extension of unemployment benefits and health insurance for out-of-work individuals.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) countered that he was concerned that Democrats would “keep heading down the same road that we have been in order to try and create an environment for jobs,” adding, “Most Americans agree that what we ought to be doing is containing and limiting government spending.”

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