Dems Stuck On Tax & Jobless Benefits Bill

As nearly one million Americans find themselves without an unemployment benefits check this week (1.3 million by week's end), Congress still cannot agree on how to move forward.

Voter anger over rising deficits has paralyzed action in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, struggles to find 60 votes for an extension of jobless benefits, along with a popular set of expiring tax breaks for businesses and individuals.

Reid opposed an attempt by GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, on Monday to gain passage of a bill that extends the benefits while not adding to the deficit. The Majority Leader blamed the previous Bush Administration for the rising tide of red ink, calling GOP spending back then "wild," and said, simply, "I know my friend - his heart's in the right place but his logic's in the wrong place."

McConnell shot back that in one year of the Obama Administration, deficits had nearly tripled. "The kind of spending Democrats are engaged in and committed to year after year is like nothing I've ever seen," the Republican leader accused.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley tells Fox that a cloture vote, used to shut off a filibuster of the bill, led primarily by Republicans, could occur by Wednesday, though that date is likely to slip, as alternate legislation is not likely to be introduced Monday, according to senior Democratic aides.

"We're trying to put together a package, once again, that can get Republican support," Manley said.

Manley said Democrats are hopeful the same basic framework for an "extenders" bill could remain in place, though everything was on the table to be cut, including the $24 billion in Medicaid funding for the states, desparately sought after by the governors.

Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, author of the multiple extenders packages that have yet to gain passage in the chamber, said Monday, "We're having a hard time passing the extenders bill," as the senator grapples with how to lure the two Democratic holdouts - Nebraska's Ben Nelson and Connecticut's Joe Lieberman -- while also trying to coax both Maine Republians, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

But there was no sign of anyone budging.

One Democratic aide told Fox of negotiations with Snowe, "We've been throwing everything at Olympia. We honestly don't know what it will take. She's gotten everything she has asked for."

Both GOP women are targeted in a new television ad campaign launched by the union, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which aims to pressure the senators into supporting a bill.

The ad, entitled, "Even Our Kids Can Understand," demands, "More jobs equal less debt, even our kids can understand that. Tell Senators Snowe and Collins to pass the jobs bill now. Not just for us, but for our children."

Collins' spokesman, Kevin Kelly, sent the following statement to Fox, "Sen. Collins is hopeful that the Senate will work quickly to come up with a compromise plan that provides assistance to those who are struggling and who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own but that does not add tens of billions of dollars to our already bloated deficit."