GOP senator proposes UI amendment with new ObamaCare exemption

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said Tuesday he would propose an amendment that would replace a Senate plan to extend emergency unemployment benefits for three months with a new tax breaks and an ObamaCare exemption aimed at creating an incentive to hire the unemployed.

Thune's proposal is one of what could become several GOP proposals to alter the unemployment bill, which advanced in the Senate earlier today with the help of six Republican votes. That bill would extend emergency unemployment benefits for three months, and many Republicans are likely to propose finding cuts to pay for that $6.4 billion cost.

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Thune's proposal is an alternative plan that he said would address the root causes of unemployment more effectively than a simple extension.

"Without addressing the reasons people are seeking additional unemployment benefits, we will be having this same discussion again when this latest emergency, short-term legislation expires," Thune said. "A historically high number of long-term unemployed individuals continue to suffer in the Obama economy.

"We need real solutions that will create jobs, better train America's workforce, and break the cycle of chronic high unemployment without adding to the deficit."

Thune's language starts by allowing businesses not to provide health insurance under ObamaCare to new hires who are classified long-term unemployed. Companies must provide insurance to these workers under current law, but Thune's amendment would permanently exempt them to create an incentive for companies to hire these workers.

It would also create a six-month payroll tax holiday for companies for each long-term unemployed person they hire, a change Thune also believes would help create new hires.

Thirdly, the proposal would set up a $10,000 loan to long-term unemployed people that could be used to relocate to new jobs that are more than 50 miles away. The language gives people 10 years to repay the loan, which could be eliminated entirely if the job they take is eliminated.

And fourth, the proposal includes language from a House-passed bill that would consolidate 35 federal job training programs and create a single Workforce Investment Fund. The House passed this proposal back in March in the form of the SKILLS Act, H.R. 803.

Thune said the tax holiday and relocation loan would be paid for by lowering the non-defense discretionary spending cap by $10 billion in 2015. He said that would return that cap to its original level under the Budget Control Act, an idea that is likely to prove controversial with Democrats.

As of Tuesday, it's not clear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will offer any amendments to the bill. However, he did tell reporters earlier today that he would consider them after hearing the various proposals.

In addition, one of the GOP senators who voted to advance the bill today, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), said he wants to pay for the extension, a sign Democrats may have to allow some votes to push the bill through.