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Extenders Package Still in Limbo

Senate Democrats on Thursday shot down a GOP alternative to their tax and unemployment insurance package even as Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) struggled to find a path forward for the Democrats’ legislation.

On a 57-41 vote, Reid and the bulk of his Conference defeated Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune’s pared-down version of the tax extenders bill. Only moderate Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) joined Republicans in supporting the South Dakota Republican’s proposal, which would have used leftover stimulus funds and other mechanisms to fully pay for the package.

Even though Reid was able to keep most Democrats together on the Thune vote, it remained unclear whether he would be able to seal a deal on the bill before the week ends.

Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Wednesday evening released a new, smaller version of the extenders package — dropping the total cost from $140 billion to $118 billion and the overall deficit impact from $79 billion to $55 billion.

While Baucus and Reid had hoped that proposal would win over deficit-minded moderates in both parties, Senators said they still were not on board.

“It’s moving in the right direction, but it’s not there yet,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said she still wants to see the entire bill paid for before supporting it.

When asked if she was happy with the latest proposal, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) simply said, “not yet.”

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