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Late Night Gives Reid Headaches on Small-Business, War Spending Bills

The Senate rejected the House’s broad version of a supplemental war spending bill late Thursday night, after Democrats were unable to complete work on a small-business jobs bill despite hours of tense negotiations with Republicans.

The Senate was stalled almost all day Thursday as Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) negotiated a settlement on the small-business measure. Those talks broke down late Thursday evening, forcing Reid to turn to the supplemental spending bill.

Senate Democrats had hoped to pass the small-business bill Thursday night, but it appears they will return to it next week.

To make matters worse for Reid, the decision to vote on the supplemental was almost derailed when, as he and McConnell were announcing their unanimous consent deal on the floor, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) abruptly objected.

Clearly catching Reid and McConnell off guard, Lincoln engaged in a brief exchange with the two leaders before objecting.

“I’d like to wage my objection until I can further discuss it with the Majority Leader,” Lincoln said, sending the Senate into a quorum call as Democrats scrambled to address her concerns.

According to Democratic aides, Lincoln was seeking to add a children’s nutrition provision to the supplemental. McConnell countered a proposed vote on Lincoln’s plan with a laundry list of other amendments, including a sense of the Senate resolution on the nomination of Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Although President Barack Obama used a recess appointment to install Berwick, he has since submitted his name to the Senate for confirmation. Republicans have used the nomination to accuse the administration of abusing its powers, and McConnell and other Republicans were hoping to score more political points Thursday evening.

Lincoln dropped her objection and McConnell dropped his amendments, and the Senate eventually rejected the House’s version of the supplemental, as expected. Reid, knowing he did not have enough votes, set up the vote in part to demonstrate to House Democrats that he could not pass their version, Democratic aides said.

The Senate then sent its stripped-down version of the supplemental back to the House for consideration.

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