The stimulus bill has begun its way through a series of votes on amendments, the first step towards what will almost certainly be a final vote on the Generational Theft Act later this afternoon or evening. Supposedly a Gang of 15 have retired to an anteroom to try building an amendment that will slice $100 billion off the top, which would mean that the remainder would still have as much pork as the House version — since the Senate added about $100 billion to HR1.
We’ll toss this out as an open thread for AP and I to update with thoughts on the amendment votes, the almost-certainly-doomed cloture vote, and the inevitable approval of the worst and largest spending bill in history.
Among my favorite amendments attached: a $2B codicil to encourage low-income housing. Isn’t that how we got into this mess in the first place?
Update (AP): Byron York says three Republicans are on board, maybe more.
Update (Ed): Mild surprise to see the Coburn Amendment pass 73-24 to block spending on casinos, aquariums, and other frivolities. Didn’t the Democrats have a starving dolphin or two for backup?
Update II (Ed): The other Coburn bill, requiring competitive bids for all of the projects in the bill, passed 97-0. Who was going to go on record opposing that idea? Now John Kerry’s up on his feet, saying that he’s supported “many tax cuts” during his long and droning tenure in the Senate. I’d like to see a list.
Update III (Ed): Voinovich says he’s out:
Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) has pulled out of negotiations on a bipartisan compromise on the Senate’s economic stimulus bill.
Three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Arlen Specter (Pa.) — continue to negotiate with Democrats, but Voinovich’s departure could make it more difficult for Democrats to reach the 60 votes they need to pass the bill.
Voinovich left a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office around 2:30 p.m., saying he did not believe there was a deal he could agree to on an amendment that would cut as much as $100 billion from the more than $920 billion measure.
“I’ve really tried to work on this, but the three things that it should be timely, that it should be temporary and it should be targeted, that was something that I looked at,” Voinovich said. “It just doesn’t meet my criteria, and I feel very sorry because I think the Majority Leader has his responsibility, and he’s got his Members that he has to take care of.”
Update (AP): Suddenly Collins sounds iffy, too:
In the morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., said he expected negotiations on a compromise to produce something that could be voted on by the end of the day.
“This is a critical day for our country and this Congress,” he said.
But by mid-afternoon, one of the leaders of the bipartisan group, Republican Susan Collins of Maine, emerged from a meeting with Reid and said she was just beginning to review an offer from the Democratic leader.
Asked how she felt, Collins said, “not as good as I felt earlier.”
Update (AP): Mark Hemingway also hears that Collins is wavering, leaving just Snowe and Specter.
Update (Ed): Duane Patterson of the Hugh Hewitt Show tells me that the Democrats have to get 60 votes by rule for cloture, not just 3/5ths of the quorum. Ted Kennedy is too ill to attend, which means Reid needs three Republican votes — and it looks like he might not get them.