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McConnell Presses Democrats to Clear GOP Benefits Bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a pre-emptive strike on the tax extenders bill, suggesting the chamber approve the GOP’s alternative before adjourning for the Memorial Day break.

“The first thing to say is that Republicans are ready and willing right now to extend necessary benefits and to pay for them. We could get this done in no time,” the Kentucky Republican said Wednesday morning.

“So any delay in passing this bill is coming from the other side of the aisle. And I say this not to point fingers, but because we’ve seen the Democrat playbook,” he added.

McConnell’s comments came as House and Senate Democrats struggle to craft an extenders package that could garner the necessary votes to pass before Friday, when Congress is set to adjourn for a weeklong recess. The House is slated to move first on the issue, with the Senate expected to take up a measure after considering the $60 billion war supplemental measure. Fiscal conservatives on both sides of the Capitol want the bill paid for, while liberals maintain that extending the tax breaks and funding for unemployment insurance benefits qualifies as emergency spending.

Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Tuesday that the Senate would pass both the supplemental and extenders package before leaving for the break.

“We’re going to work until we complete the supplemental appropriation bill and we complete the jobs bill,” the Nevada Democrat said after the Democrats’ weekly caucus lunch. “We need a way forward on both of those, and I think in the caucus today we had an extremely good discussion of both those issues.”

Democrats have struggled in the past to approve broad extender packages. In March, just before the two-week Easter recess, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) repeatedly denied unanimous consent to approve an extenders measure, charging that it should be fully paid for. Once both sides reached an agreement to move forward, House Democrats pushed back and refused to approve the bill. Despite the bipartisan agreement in the Senate, both sides blamed each other for the stalemate.

McConnell blasted the Democrats’ measure, which he said would “add another $130 billion to the deficit by the end of the week.”

He also predicted Wednesday that if the Senate is unable to approve a similar measure this week, Democrats will “try to blame Republicans for their own inability to come to an agreement.”

“So let’s be perfectly clear: There’s one reason Democrats are having trouble getting an agreement on this bill and one reason only — and that’s because it’s so blatantly reckless,” he said.

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