Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that nobody is to blame for Congress's failure to pass the unemployment extensions bill this week. "I don't think there's any fault involved. It's not as if the House has been lazy."
House leadership finally passed its unemployment extensions bill Friday, but hang-ups over small amendments mean tens of thousands of the long-term unemployed will watch their benefits lapse on June 1st as the bill languishes over the Memorial Day break.
Though the lapse may be brief, the story is a familiar one. More than 300 pieces of legislation that the House passed this year have stalled in the Senate.
In the bill, Democratic leadership scaled back the reauthorization of several jobless aid programs, dropping COBRA health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers to win Blue Dog support and reducing impact on the federal budget deficit by $50 billion.
"The tax extenders jobs bill is just not an easy piece of legislation," Reid explained. "It involves a lot of difficult issues. It involves emergencies, it involves non-emergencies... so there's no fault. It's just a very, very hard bill."
Anxiety over out-of-control budget deficits have made some members too nervous to support the bill, especially in an election year. Reid said he thinks those concerns, which have led to the scrutiny of small tax provisions, will continue to haunt the Senate in the months ahead. But he adds that scrutiny of tax provisions is not a bad thing.
"We have a lot to do," said Reid. "We have the defense bill, we have the extenders jobs bill... we have a small business and jobs package... we have Citizens United... we have a lot to do!"
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees with Reid. "It's not a question of blame -- no one will be deprived of anything," she said. "I don't think we have walked away from any of the priorities that we want to achieve. We will achieve them in time. Some are more urgent than others."
Senators who have already left town will vote to approve the bill after the break. "We're going to take care of it right after we get back," said an aide.