By Alexander Bolton - 12/16/11 12:43 AM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday evening filed a motion to force a vote on House-passed legislation to extend a payroll tax holiday.
The maneuver could be read one of two ways. It may be a sign that talks with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have taken a bad turn or it may mean the Senate is set to advance a deal by Saturday.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected Wednesday to holding a vote on the House bill, arguing the Senate should give priority to an omnibus bill to avert a potential government shutdown after Friday.
Senate Democratic leaders, however, wanted to vote on the House bill to show Boehner that it did not have enough votes to pass, giving them leverage in negotiations.
Democrats also thought the vote might embarrass Republicans after 26 GOP senators voted against an earlier proposal supported by McConnell that would have extended the payroll tax cut and paid for it by freezing federal pay.
On the other hand, filing a motion to limit debate on the House payroll tax package would prepare it to be used for a legislative vehicle to approve a possible bipartisan deal among Reid, Boehner and McConnell.
Reid and McConnell signaled to colleagues Thursday that the talks were progressing well, giving them hope of getting a deal in time to leave town by Saturday night.
Senate Democrats were expected to sign an omnibus appropriations bill funding government through fiscal year 2012. That could be attached to compromise legislation to extend the payroll tax holiday and substituted for the content of the House payroll tax package.