A bitterly-divided Senate remained stalled Tuesday on a bill to revive unemployment benefits that ended last month, though Democrats and Republicans continue to talk in hopes of taking another stab at compromise soon.
The bill remained in limbo after a procedural game of chicken - a series of test votes that failed to achieve the 60-vote threshold required to pass. The first measure would have extended unemployment benefits through November and pay for it by extending the mandatory spending cuts known as sequestration through 2024. The measure failed on a 52-48 vote.
The second measure to extend benefits for three months without a mechanism to pay for it. It was rejected 55-45.
Responding to Republican complaints that they were being denied the right to add amendments to the bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Democrats agreed that each party would be allowed five amendments with 60-vote thresholds.
But in return for the amendments, Republicans would have to agree to a simple majority rules vote on the final bill, which would extend benefits through November. Republicans rejected the deal.
'So the perception that we've made some progress towards getting back to normal here, at the end of the year, at the end of last week, has been sort of wiped out by the reality of what the offer is,' said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. 'I'd be very surprised if my membership that that that was fair.'
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Senate Republicans of obstruction on extending benefits.
'And so bottom line, the thing that has driven us to some of these measures that they (Republicans) don't like is they're obstructing,' he said. 'So today we called their bluff. We said 'Hey, we'll give you amendments. Are you still going to obstruct?' And at least up to this point they've answered, 'Yes, we're going to obstruct.''
But despite Tuesday's bickering, both sides indicated that the effort to pass an emergency unemployment benefits extension bill isn't dead.
Reid promised that lawmakers would work to 'find a way to work together to get these people that are desperate the help that they need."