Tempers Flare As Senate Nears Stimulus Vote

After Sen. Reid vowed to work through the night, weary Senate needs another day.

ByABC News
February 5, 2009, 1:28 PM

Feb. 5, 2009— -- As the Senate inched toward a final vote on the $900 billion economic stimulus package, tempers flared on the Senate floor: Republicans said bipartisanship had evaporated and they are being railroaded. Democrats accused Republicans of obstruction.

"If this is the new way of doing businesses, if this is the change we all can believe in, America's best days are behind her," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Moderates from both parties have been trying to hammer out a compromise, but sources tell ABC News there is almost zero chance of the Senate reaching a final vote tonight.

Eariler in the evening, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate will work through the night, setting an example for the rest of the world.

"I can't imagine what would happen to the financial markets tomorrow if there was a report this bill would go down," Reid said. "I hope that within 12 hours we can have a piece of legislation we can be proud of."

Democratic Senate leaders said this afternoon that they have the votes to pass the stimulus bill and suggested they have little interest in making further changes to win more Republican support.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he also hopes there can be a bill "soon."

Senators began voting on a series of amendments to the measure on Thursday afternoon. In the chamber's first vote to alter the bill, senators defeated Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz., $425 billion alternative to the package, voting strictly on party lines.

"If the leadership can peel off two or three Republicans, that's an accomplishment they will make," McCain said. "But it's not bipartisanship."

Anti-stimulus forces are hardening in their resolve after considering a slew of amendments. There is a chance Republicans will filibuster, moving a cloture vote to the weekend or next early week.

Earlier Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters he has the votes -- with no further changes -- to pass the economic stimulus bill.

"We believe we do" have the votes, Reid said. "We believe we can find two Republicans of goodwill to do the right thing for their country."

Reid had also said he believed all 58 Democrats would vote for the bill. With Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., absent this evening, Democrats would need three Republicans to side with them to receive the 60 votes needed to pass the measure.

"Has bipartisanship failed?" asked Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "So far it's not working, but it takes two to tango and so far the Republicans aren't dancing. The hard right has a stranglehold on most of the Republicans."

Meantime, moderate senators have been meeting today to "scrub" wasteful spending from the bill. Reid said he is happy to talk to those senators, but doesn't feel compelled to support their cuts.

"The question is: Do they work in an effort to strengthen the bill or destroy the bill?" Reid said.

Schumer also suggested it is irrelevant whether the bill gets more Republican support.

He said that three months from now, "it will vanish in the wind how many votes we got, as long as we pass it."

Still, the senators spending the day trying to trim the bill seem convinced Reid has miscalculated and needs their support to pass the measure.

"I would say to the majority leader that his success depends on the success of this group," said Maine Sen. Susan Collins.