The Senate is bracing for a possible all-nighter as leaders have thus far failed to reach an agreement on the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act. You may remember this as Harry Reid’s relatively small $15 billion jobs bill that he introduced after yanking the Baucus/Grassley deal. The House then passed an amended version, and Reid is now hoping to pass this deal and send it to President Obama this week to be signed into law.
As he did the first time around, Reid again has refused to allow amendments (if the bill were to be changed in any way it would have to go back to the House — resulting in a game of ping pong that has entrapped some pieces of legislation for years). Republicans last time were incensed that they couldn’t amend the bill but 13 of them ended up still voting for it on final passage. This time around they are refusing to allow the Senate to proceed to the legislation in protest (every bill must have unanimous consent to be brought up). This is essentially a GOP filibuster which Reid will have to file for cloture to overcome — a procedural tactic that will require a 60-vote threshold for a bill everyone knows will pass (the first version passed 70-28) and 30 hours of debate. Usually, such debates are wound out during civilized daylight hours. But, if Republicans refuse to pass the bill tonight, Dems are preparing force them to stay in session all night. The cloakroom is lining up Democratic senators to preside over the chamber all night and the Senate’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Terrance Gainer, has warned his staff that they could be in through the wee hours. Not quite a real filibuster, but at least one potential night sans sleep.
This builds on Senator Jim Bunning’s five-day one-man filibuster of unemployment benefits. Dems seem increasingly prepared to force Republicans to publicly block popular, bipartisan jobs bills to demonstrate the degree of logjam in the Senate. Republicans, meanwhile, are accusing Dems of playing politics with important legislation. But if this “filibuster” goes anything like Bunnings’, Democrats are coming to the table with the upper hand.