Lawmakers eye new spending extension

The House and Senate will vote next week on another continuing resolution to fund the government through mid-December, but Democratic leaders have not yet decided whether to move the bill separately or combine it with other legislation.

Only four of the 12 spending bills for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1 have made it to President Obama's desk for his signature. Action is necessary next week because the continuing resolution now in place expires Oct. 31. A senior House Republican aide said the new resolution is likely to fund the government until Dec. 15.

In addition to dealing with a continuing resolution, the Senate next week is likely to pass a bill that would extend the eligibility period for unemployment benefits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed for cloture on the bill Wednesday night. While an earlier agreement was possible, GOP Senate aides suggested work on the package was not likely before Tuesday.

The bill would allow an additional 14 weeks of jobless pay in all states, with an additional six weeks in states with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent.

Reid said on Thursday that if a cloture vote is held Friday on the unemployment extension he might also seek cloture votes on other bills. Senior Senate aides said Reid was most likely referring to the fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill, which he pulled from the floor last week after losing a cloture vote. A spokeswoman for Reid said that bill could come to the floor next week.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats continue to push back the target date for bringing a healthcare bill to the floor, with Reid acknowledging it will not happen next week. Democrats hit a roadblock this week when they were drubbed on a vote to end debate on a bill to fix a Medicare payment formula for physicians, but said that vote will not affect the healthcare overhaul.

The House is expected to vote next week on a bill designed to help small businesses, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday. The measure would provide incentives to encourage banks to make loans to small firms and would boost the statutory limit on the size of loans made or backed by the Small Business Administration.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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