On a Monday conference call with reporters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) officially announced that he'll move ahead with the first stand-alone piece of President Obama's jobs bill this week -- a $35 billion state aid measure to prevent layoffs of teachers and emergency fist responders. But he's prepared for Republicans to stand in the way.
"I'll bring this bill for a vote as soon as possible," Reid told reporters, noting that the entire cost will be offset with a small fraction of the millionaire surtax Dems proposed to pay for the entire Obama jobs bill.
"As soon as possible" could be a while, if Republicans want to gum things up. The current business on the Senate floor is a so-called "minibus" appropriations bill, to fund the Departments of Commerce, Transportation, Agriculture and other departments that will run out of money in November. For procedural and Constitutional reasons, Reid can't force a vote on the teacher and firefighter aid plan as an amendment to this approps bill -- so he's planning to move directly to it after the minibus has cleared the Senate, ideally by weeks end.
"There is no reason we cannot finish the appropriations bills before the end of the week, and have a vote on this jobs bill," Reid said. "I am happy to keep the Senate in session as long as needed to make sure we get a vote on this jobs bill."
Week's end is optimistic. But Republicans can draw this out for a long, long time with a flood of amendments -- something a Senate Dem aide says Democrats will have little patience for. That's the next flashpoint in the fight between Dems and the GOP over jobs in the Senate.
Reid told reporters, he has the next several elements of Obama's jobs bill lined up and ready to go after the teacher and firefighter bill, but declined to discuss those until after he briefs his caucus Tuesday afternoon.