By Bernie Becker and Vicki Needham - 01/07/14 12:35 PM EST
Two Republican senators who voted to move forward on a measure to renew federal jobless benefits on Tuesday implored Democrats to work with them to find an offset.
Sens. Dan Coats (Ind.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) said it was far from a done deal that they would back the measure again without covering the $6.4 billion cost for the three-month reauthorization of the program.
Top Senate Democrats acknowledged after Tuesday's vote that this was a positive first step toward crafting a measure that could clear the House and Senate with bipartisan support.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that while it is optimal for Democrats to pass the measure quickly and with "no strings attached," he and other Democrats are willing to find a "reasonable" way to pay for the short-term measure.
Schumer said he hoped that Republicans are willing to come to the table for a good-faith negotiation and that the bill doesn't die because the two parties are too far apart on what cuts should be made to pass the bill.
Bill co-sponsor Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who teamed up with Republican Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) on the measure, said Democrats are "certainly going to listen" to Republican ideas on how to pay for the measure.
"We have to have another bipartisan effort to get this passed," he said. "We have to have something that makes sense for the economy and that we generally support."
"I hope our Republican colleagues feel same way."
But Coats said if Democrats refuse and the bill goes down, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could potentially absorb some of the blame — after Democrats spent days slamming Republicans for turning a cold shoulder to more than one million unemployed people.
“Take it outside the politics of it — the gotcha politics — and get back to a Senate that debates policies and those changes,” Coats told reporters after the debate.
“Why end the process from even starting?" he asked. "If Harry wants to not give us an opportunity to offer amendments, to debate reforms, to accept a pay-for, then Democrats will have to answer the question.”
Portman said that he voted to proceed “so we can engage in the debate on how to pay for this and how to make the unemployment insurance work better for Ohioans who are trying to find a job.”
Portman said he would have his own ideas for how to pay for the extension, but declined to reveal any details.
“Now we have a chance to have a debate,” he said.