WASHINGTON (CNN) – CNN has learned that one day after securing an agreement on a giant economic stimulus bill that is expected to pass narrowly with the votes of three moderate Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling other Republican centrists trying to persuade more of them to vote for the measure.
He’s looking for additional votes out of an abundance of caution, an aide explained, after learning that ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, who returned to Capitol Hill for votes earlier this week, has now gone back to Florida to continue his recovery from brain cancer and won’t be here for a final vote on the stimulus bill in the coming days.
With Kennedy here, the Senate version of the bill passed 61-37 – just one vote more than needed.
Reid is concerned that if a Democratic senator gets sick, or has some other unforeseen obligation, he could have trouble getting the bill passed.
Reid is also concerned because the three GOP moderates who support the bill – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania – suggested they did not want provide the decisive 60th vote for passage. That would likely happen without Kennedy voting.
So far, there’s no indication Reid has won any more GOP votes for the measure. But an aide to one of the GOP moderates, who asked not to be identified, doubted any of the moderates would drop off.
“I can not imagine any of them would back away after all the painstaking negotiations,” the aide said.