Though health care dominated the headlines in 2009, Senate Democrats were quietly working behind the scenes on a jobs bill for much of the second half of last year. And they hope to unveil a package soon after the winter recess comes to an end.
In a squeaker of a vote last month, the House passed its own $154 billion jobs bill. The margin was 217-212, with all Republicans and a number of conservative Democrats voting no. But, as always, the Senate is a slower, more recalcitrant beast, and passing a bill that can have a real impact before November will be a tough haul.
That's why, monthas ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tasked his number two, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) with authoring legislation. And they've come a long way, fielding input from across the party in the hopes of avoiding the time-consuming snafus that plagued the year-long fight over health care.
"Initially [discussions involved] a smaller group of senators--Durbin, Brown, Casey, and Dorgan," said a keyed in Democratic source, "and they extended it beyond that...it became many, many senators involved, in the late summer or fall."
That's a bit unusual for a major bill. Often the groundwork is laid at the staff level, in advance of hearings, committee votes, and then a wider introduction to party rank and file. It's also a sign that the leadership wants things to go as smoothly as possible, to bring relief to the unemployed quickly, and in time for midterm elections this November.
There will, of course, have to be votes at the committee level, and on the Senate floor, and in the Senate, that often means a frustrating pace. But Democrats have already done quite a bit of heavy lifting on this issue, and the hope is to move quickly in the weeks ahead.