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Reid tries quick strike on welfare plan

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Politics,Chris Stirewalt,Power Play

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REID TRIES QUICK STRIKE ON WELFARE PLAN - If Harry Reid wants to put the hammer to House Republicans over resuming federal aid to those whose state unemployment insurance has expired, he will first have to mend some fences on the Senate side. The Senate majority leader, who shattered the remaining shards of goodwill in the upper chamber with his procedural gambit to fast-track the president’s nominees, didn’t sound ready to deal on Sunday. In a CBS News interview, Reid would not rule out blowing up the 60-vote threshold for legislation as he has already done for nominations. Reid said: “We’re not there yet.” To resume the payments to the unemployed, Reid will have to start dealing or get ready for a double-nuclear strike against the minority. The Senate is back in session today, and Reid looks short of 60 votes.

[Watch Fox: Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel has the latest from Capitol Hill, including a scheduled vote to confirm Janet Yellen as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.]

A majority not simple - Reid told Reid told Fox News that he was unwilling to hear Republican pleas to make the welfare benefits part of a larger deal on spending or to offset the outlay with cuts elsewhere. Reid compared the benefits, which lapsed on Dec. 28, to spending on hurricane relief, etc. “We have never offset emergency spending. That’s foolish.” The emergency, according to Reid, is that “the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.” But that’s not going to get him 60 votes. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he would vote “no,” expressing frustration that Reid is trying to jam the bill through without Republican debate or amendment. “Unfortunately, the Senate appears to be starting the new year just like the old one ended, with the Democratic leader bypassing committee consideration and cutting off all amendments and debate on an important issue.” If the courtly Alexander is not willing to budge, it seems unlikely that there are four more ready to join Reid’s home-state colleague, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

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Chris Stirewalt

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