Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected on Monday a GOP alternative to the House-passed extenders package that aides say he hopes to pass this week.
The Nevada Democrat said the 30-day extension measure offered by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “doesn’t solve the problems” of longer-term funding for unemployment insurance, state assistance for Medicaid and Medicare payouts to doctors.
“We have to have a legitimate program to extend these benefits into the future,” said Reid, who denied McConnell’s request to move to the measure authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “Thirty days doesn’t do it. It just kicks the ball down the road.”
The House-passed extenders package is entering its third week on the Senate floor, where it has languished as some Democrats express concerns over its $140 billion cost. Reid and other top Democrats have been working behind the scenes to rally enough support to pass the measure, which would extend funding for unemployment benefits until November and Medicaid funding for an additional year.
The Medicaid provision was stripped from the House bill to win enough votes for passage before Memorial Day, but Senate Democrats are hoping to pass legislation that restores it. That would mean the bill would return to the House for another vote.
McConnell sought to highlight the splinters among Democrats on Monday by noting that party members “continue to argue among themselves about the extenders bill.” Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have been vocal in their concerns, as has moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who could provide crucial support to move the legislation.
Aides suggest Reid could file cloture on the extenders package as early as Monday night, which could mean he is close to the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle.
Correction: June 14, 2010
The article misstated who authored the GOP’s 30-day extension measure. Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote it.