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House Democrats Lack Votes for Extender Package

The tax and unemployment benefits extension bill appeared on the brink of collapse Thursday afternoon, with House Democratic leaders short of the votes they need to pass it and fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats defecting.

In the meantime, the House moved to the defense authorization bill, with a vote on language that could lead to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay individuals serving in the military possible later in the day.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), asked if she still expects the House to vote on the extenders package Thursday, said, “I don’t know about that — it depends on how long defense takes.”

More than 80 amendments are pending to the defense bill, and Blue Dogs were urging leadership to pass a short-term unemployment extension and return to the tax bill after the break.

“It seems to me that given the timetable we’re on, we’re going to have to grapple with this after Memorial Day,” said Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), co-chairwoman of the Blue Dog Coalition, who said leadership was shy of the votes needed to pass the bill. “While we’re been invited to share our concerns and leadership has listened, not everyone is hearing us.”

Despite Democrats trimming the bill by more than $50 billion Thursday night, fiscal conservatives are still not eager to vote for a package that adds $84 billion to the deficit — particularly without a guarantee from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he will be able to cut off a filibuster and pass a similar measure in his chamber. Senate aides have said they cannot give such a guarantee until Senators have a chance to examine what comes out of the House.

Leadership aides acknowledged that they did not yet have the votes in the House and are trying to decide what to do.

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.

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