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Senate switchboard: All circuits are busy; Update: Stop the cave-in. Call the GOP's Queasy Quartet; Voino calls it quits

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By Michelle Malkin  •  February 6, 2009 09:22 AM

Scroll for updates…The Friday night cave-in is about to begin…Collins (202) 224-2523 Snowe (202) 224-5344 Voinovich (202) 224-3353 Specter (202) 224-4254…If you make just one call, make it Specter’s office. I’m told that he is the ringleader making this happen…Give him hell

From both Capitol Hill staff reports and reader e-mails, the phones have been melting down in Washington — and not from Americans who are enthralled with the idea of stealing $1 trillion from future generations for a Crap Sandwich Supreme. If you can’t get through the first time, try, try again.

My friends at TCOT Report have a handy list of contact information — including fax numbers — for several of the Senate GOP wobblers here. And you can get all the House members’ e-mail addresses here or here.

B.O. Republican Sen. Arlen Specter told Fox this morning that a “bipartisan” group is conspiring right now to make token cuts to the bill and push a compromise through. More on the “moderate” effort to make token cuts to the behemoth spending package here.

President Obama has ramped up his fear-mongering rhetoric. Time for you to ramp up your voices.

***

Lunchtime update. Speak now or forever hold your piece. Yesterday, I identified the Senate GOP’s Queasy Quartet — the stimulus wobblers — who are now colluding with the Dems to get the bill passed tonight.

Now, read this just in from Roll Call on the latest negotiations:

Bipartisan negotiators are close to an agreement to cut more than $100 billion from the Senate’s economic stimulus bill, but a handful of Republicans are still holding out for assurances that the spending that remains in the package will be temporary.

Just before noon on Friday, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) emerged from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office and said the key to announcing any deal will be persuading four Senate Republican negotiators to sign onto the amendment. The Republicans who Democrats are trying to strike an accord with include moderate Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), George Voinovich (Ohio), and Arlen Specter (Pa.). Collins has served as the lead GOP negotiator.

Nelson said that the bulk of the work on the amendment has been completed and that the proposal they will offer would trim more than $100 billion from the more than $920 billion measure.

Nelson said the group is trying to craft language ensuring that any increased spending to states or on federal programs would not become permanent.

The amendment calling for massive cuts to the more than $900 billion bill has become crucial to the measure’s ultimate passage, given that many Democrats and several Republicans have said they cannot support the bill without a cut to the price. Democrats need 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles and pass the bill, meaning they will need the support of all 58 Members of the Democratic Conference and at least two Republicans.

Though Democrats are uneasy with the hefty cuts to education and other programs in the negotiators’ amendment, it appears they are likely to vote for the proposal in order to get the bill into conference with the House, where adjustments can be made.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said he expects Democrats will “vote for the amendment with the understanding that it’s moving the process along.”

Earlier Friday, Reid prodded bipartisan negotiators to finish work quickly on the amendment so that the Senate could complete work on the measure later in the day.

“We’re nearing the time when negotiations must be completed and action must begin,” Reid said on the floor Friday morning. “So I urge my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to dedicate this day to responsibly passing this legislation and sending it to the president.”

He added that he hoped to have the bipartisan amendment ready to vote on between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“We’re going to be able to work something out. I feel very comfortable that we can do that,” he said.

***

Voinovich drops out. And then there were three

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.”

Voinovich said he could not get past his objections to fund school construction in the bill, and he wanted the measure to include more money for highway construction.

“They can’t seem to get it through there that right now what we need is a program that will create jobs,” Voinovich said.

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Categories: Enviro-nitwits, fiscal stimulus, Politics