Reid: Senate won’t vote on unemployment benefits this year

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday said the chamber won't vote on federal unemployment benefits before the program expires on Dec. 28.

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“We’re going to push for a extension for unemployment insurance when the Senate returns here next year,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

Many Democrats hoped a renewal of the program would have been included in the budget deal struck Tuesday, and some in the House have said Congress shouldn’t adjourn until an extension is passed.

The federal unemployment benefits go to people who have exhausted their state benefits, which typically last 26 weeks.

Reid said he’d also hold votes early next year to raise the federal minimum wage and ensure that doctors are paid enough to see Medicare patients — also known as the “doc fix.”

Rather than deal with those matters, the Senate is now spending 30 hours debating the nomination of Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court. A vote on her confirmation is scheduled for 1 a.m. Thursday unless Republicans agree to yield back time.

“We could be voting on all this stuff now,” Reid said. “Instead Republicans are insisting that we vote on a nomination hours from now, after they’ve frittered away 30 hours of the Senate’s time. … So when people complain that they’re not at home with their families this holiday season, here is the reason: Republican obstruction.”

Republicans are upset that Democrats unilaterally changed the Senate filibuster rules using the “nuclear option” to ensure only 51 votes are needed to end a filibuster on nominations below the level of the Supreme Court.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Reid was to blame for the Senate not voting on unemployment insurance, pointing out that Reid controls the Senate schedule and the nominations aren’t essential now.

“He’s the one in charge of the schedule,” McConnell said of Reid. “He’s taking a week here on nonessential nominations, all of which could be handled later, and it was his choice.”