Some puzzled by Reid's latest on unemployment

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to move away the small business jobs bill, within hours of having voted to debate it, and replacing it with another extension for unemployment benefits has some in his chamber wondering what else they might be debating before the July 4 recess. 

"They [Democrats] have the attention span of a four-year-old," a senior aide told The Hill. "We were on the small business bill for, what, six hours before moving to this one?"

The Senate around 2pm this afternoon voted 66-33 to advance the debate on legislation providing tax relief and loan assistance to small businesses.

Shortly after 8pm, Reid teamed up with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and filed cloture on a bill providing a six-month extension for unemployment benefits and a three-month extension for closing on the purchase of a home and still qualifying for the homebuyer tax credit.

"The bill that Chairman Baucus and I introduced today would restore criticial assistance that unemployed workers depend on to help make ends meets," Reid said in prepared remarks. "In addition, we're trying to extend the closing deadline for homebuyers in Nevada and across the country who have already qualified for the first-time homebuyer tax credit and need some extra time to close on their new home and experience the American Dream of homeownership. These common-sense solutions to help millions of Americans deserve bipartisan support and should be passed swiftly."

The cost to extend unemployment is approximately $35 billion and is not offset. Most Republicans oppose extending the program if its cost is not paid for.

Reid has so far tried three times to extend unemployment insurance without paying for its cost. No Republicans have supported these proposals.

Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe has now signalled that she will support to extend unemployment even if it is not paid for. But Reid will need at least two more conservative senators to follow Snowe's lead if his fourth try is to be successful, assuming Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) continues to insist on the benefits be paid for before he supports their extension.