"I don't know that we can get it done tonight," Collins said, referencing her desire for "a different approach" that involves "tak[ing] a fresh look, as if we were drafting a bill from scratch [and asking] what would we put in it."
One suspects the Senate Appropriations Committee -- which actually did draft the bill from scratch -- might take issue with that approach. But Collins is one of only a handful of Republicans whose stimulus votes are realistically gettable for Democrats, and she said she's not prepared to vote for the bill as it stands.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), who has participated in the Nelson-Collins stimulus talks, took a pragmatic view. "If this package isn't improved here, but assurances were given before conference [with the House of Representatives] is completed that additional changes would be made, that's another possibility."
At least one of Conrad's colleagues, Sen. Jon Tester (D-M), said he's open to leaving some stimulus decisions open until a conference with the House -- which would have to occur next week in order to meet the Obama administration's Presidents Day deadline.
One thing to watch for in the final centrist deal, according to Nelson: a possible restoration of the $25 billion in extra transportation funding that fell two votes short of being added to the stimulus earlier this week.
But while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vows to keep the Senate working non-stop until the weekend, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pushes right back, the chances of a breakthrough tonight are dimming. As always, however, we'll be watching and keeping you posted.