Senate Republicans and Democrats squabbled in public while negotiating in private on Monday on stalled legislation to resurrect unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
While the bill’s overall prospects remained unclear, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it was possible a test vote scheduled for early evening would be postponed to allow more time for compromise talks.
Otherwise, there appeared little prospect that supporters of the legislation would gain the 60 votes needed to advance the measure.
Compounding the uncertainty, Republicans have proposed using the legislation to restore full cost of living benefits to military retirees under the age of 62. Lawmakers voted to curtail the increases late last year, and now face enormous pressure from veterans groups to reverse themselves.
Republicans “have been very effective at creating gridlock ... at preventing the Senate from doing its job,” Reid said.
He also said that Republicans “are so obsessed with taking pot shots at the Affordable Care Act and staging political stunt votes that they are willing to derail a bill that would help 1.4 million out-of-work Americans.” That was a reference to a GOP proposal to offset the unemployment bill’s cost by delaying a requirement for individuals to purchase coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
A few moments later, the Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, blamed Democrats for the hold-up that has blocked action on the legislation to date.