Lawmakers face difficult time finding ways to pay for legislation

She said lawmakers should've stuck with their offsets plans.

"We had an agreement and we should've made that sacrosanct, protected it and not usurped those offsets to expand the healthcare bill," she said. "Now we're compounding the deficit problem."

Snowe said she is working with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus on options for offsets for several bills but expects the going to be "very difficult."

"I don't think we'd be in the stalemate we're in today in respect to unemployment benefits had they not used offsets for the yearlong extension," she said. "Now we're having this debate on a monthly basis."

She said it was "fiscally imprudent" to have taken agreed upon offsets and used them for healthcare reform. Jobs should be the "No. 1 priority here" but it "keeps getting relegated to the back seat." 

Pay-as-you-go rules will make it tough for lawmakers in either chamber to push for bills that aren't paid for, regardless of whether the spending is deemed an emergency or not. Democrats have been trying to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, among other jobs issues under the emergency spending designation because funds are running low with so many people out of work. 

The lack of options could force lawmakers to consider carried interest, which taxes compensation at lower capital gains rates instead of higher marginal rates. The issue is expected to arise as part of talks on possible changes to the tax code.