Reid blocks GOP from offering pay-for amendment to UI bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) objected to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) attempt to ensure Republicans can offer amendments to a bill that would temporarily extend unemployment insurance.

McConnell wanted to offer at least two amendments that he said would help pay for the three-month extension: delaying ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate for one year and restoring a $6 billion cut in military retiree benefits.

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Reid objected, saying the veterans benefit issue would likely be addressed in an omnibus spending bill being negotiated to keep the government running. He added that if Republicans don’t vote to advance the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act from Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), they were “callously” turning their backs on the unemployed.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said McConnell's proposal to delay the individual mandate would effectively remove the guarantee of coverage for millions of Americans, which he said is unacceptable.

"That is the Republican logic," he said. "Help the unemployed, but at the expense of 300 million American families and their health insurance protection."

Long-term unemployment insurance expired for 1.3 million people on Dec. 28. Most Republicans oppose the $6 billion three-month extension because it’s not paid for. McConnell said delaying the implementation of ObamaCare for one year would save enough money to pay for the extension and restore cuts to veterans’ benefits that were included in the budget deal.

McConnell accused Democrats of using unemployment insurance for political gain.

“Over the past several days we’ve seen a number of stories about how Democrats plan to spend the year gearing up for the November elections by making an issue out of the economic hardships faced by Americans,” McConnell said. “Democrats plan to exploit those folks for political gain.”

Later Tuesday morning, the Senate will vote on whether to consider the unemployment insurance extension bill. Democrats will need at least five Republicans to vote to end debate.