Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Friday appeared to soften his opposition to changes Republicans want to make to legislation that would extend unemployment insurance to 1.3 million Americans, a move that could grease Senate passage of the hotly debated proposal.
Reid has repeatedly blocked GOP attempts to amend the bill and on Thursday proposed his own amendment that he claimed satisfied Republican priorities. Democrats want unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless extended for three months. Republicans are demanding structural reforms to the unemployment program and that its $6.5 billion price tag be offset with budget cuts.
Republicans are withholding votes Reid needs to clear a 60-vote threshold and advance the bill to a final vote because Reid refused to allow a vote on any of the two dozen amendments Republicans have proposed.
Reid's newfound flexibility, first reported by the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, could ease tensions and jumpstart the negotiations.
“Senator Reid has continued speaking with his Republican colleagues since yesterday afternoon and informed them that he is absolutely willing for the Senate to consider a reasonable number of relevant amendments from Republicans,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said in a statement.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., one of the bill's co-authors, declined to comment on Jentleson's statement, citing on-going negotiations, his office said.
The Senate will return Monday, but it was unclear whether any of the Republicans offering amendments had been in contact with Reid about the possibility of holding votes on the measures.
The Republican-controlled House, meanwhile, is unlikely to support any bipartisan agreement that might emerge from the Senate, at least based on the current parameters for any deal that would attract enough GOP votes to clear the chamber.