Let me try and piece this together best I can, keeping in mind that I’ve been on and off the Internets Thursday:
• A series of measures, including unemployment insurance and COBRA extensions, the “doc fix” and some other things, expire on April 5, when the Congress will be in recess. The House and Senate have passed versions of a bill extending all these, but need time to reconcile them. So the need arises for a short-term fix.
• Last month, Jim Bunning became America’s Shame for blocking a short-term extension to the same measures. But undaunted, Senate Republicans planned to again block the extension, led by America’s Curmudgeon-in-Waiting, Tom Coburn. Sure enough, he objected to unanimous consent for getting on the bill.
• Coburn has the stamina of three Bunnings, according to a Senate aide, so when he signaled that he would object to unanimous consent on a short-term extension without it being paid for, it was clear that Reid would have to file cloture and start the clock on an extension if he wanted one, even if the Senate had to stay in session beyond the recess date.
• Coburn came down with his own paid-for legislation, but Reid moved to table it, and the Senate voted in favor.
• Reid and McConnell agreed on a one-week fix to buy time, but House Democrats wouldn’t buy it.
• Reid called a live quorum:
Reid called the live quorum call – during which the Sergeant-at-Arms is authorized to compel Members to come to the chamber – following more than an hour of unsuccessful negotiations on the Senate floor with Republicans and Democrats.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the quorum call is “an attempt to bring all the Members of the Senate together to try and figure out how to proceed” on unemployment insurance, adding that “the question is whether we’re going to work through the weekend or if we can work something out” Thursday night.
Once all of the Members are on the floor, Reid will “start a colloquy and see where things go,” Manley said.
• With the live quorum not having worked, Reid filed cloture on the bill and also filed for a “conditional adjournment,” which procedurally would allow Reid to reopen the Senate into session if needed.
• Then Dick Durbin came down and said an agreement was reached, but I’m not sure what that agreement actually was. Debate is ongoing on the floor right now. The Senate may have to come back on Saturday, but I think they just got to consideration of the bill without objection, so we’ll see.
…OK, so the Senate went into recess, and they’ll “continue working” on an agreement with Coburn Friday morning. I don’t know if they’d actually go home without passing an extension or wait until the cloture clock winds down and do an actual vote. Regardless, this is not over yet.