Dems propose using farm bill savings to fund unemployment

Two senior House Democrats have proposed legislation that would take the billions of dollars saved from the farm bill, and use the money to fund a six-month extension of federal unemployment benefits.

House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) proposed their legislation Tuesday, a day before the House passed the controversial farm bill.

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In a letter to their House colleagues, the two members said the House should move quickly to restore unemployment benefits that expired a month ago.

"It is unconscionable that Congress left in December without extending this vital lifeline to 1.3 million long term unemployed Americans, and thousands more each week, who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and continue to search for work," they wrote.

"The Speaker has insisted that any extension of emergency unemployment benefits be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget. That is exactly what our proposal will do."

Under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, H.R. 3936, emergency unemployment benefits would be extended through July 1, an extension of roughly six months. That would cost about $12 billion or $13 billion, just under the $16.5 billion that the farm bill would save over the next 10 years.

There are no indications House GOP leaders will call up the bill, and Republicans before have said they oppose plans to pay for programs in the short term with savings over several years.

The House version was introduced a few weeks after the Senate failed to find any agreement on how to advance the bill. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he would call up a new proposal next week that pays for a three-month extension.