Reid: After Senate passes jobless bill, it’s in GOP’s hands

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that after the Senate passes an extension of long-term unemployment benefits later this week, the issue will be in House Republicans’ hands.

“It’s in their hands,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “We hope they will be considerate to these struggling people.”

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Later Monday, the Senate is expected to adopt the motion to proceed to H.R. 3979, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, which Reid is using as the legislative vehicle for the jobless aid proposal. Final passage will likley happen later this week.

Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) have put together a plan that would provide retroactive benefits to more than 2 million people who lost their benefits after the program expired on Dec. 28.

Senate Republicans have blocked three other attempts to extend unemployment insurance (UI), but this time, the legislation has five Republican co-sponsors, meaning it can overcome the 60-vote threshold of a filibuster.

However, action in the House appears unlikely because Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he wouldn’t consider the Senate deal since it doesn’t include job-creating measures.

“It’s as if they simply don’t care if some of their own constituents are teetering on indigence,” Reid said of Republican obstruction. 

The Senate’s five-month extension would use several offsets to pay for the nearly $10 billion cost, including pension smoothing provisions from the 2012 highway bill, which were set to phase out this year, and extending customs user fees through 2024.

The emergency federal program kicks in once workers who have continued looking for a new job exhaust their state-level benefits, usually after 26 weeks.