Senators near deal on unemployment

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday he is “cautiously optimistic” that a deal can be reached to extend unemployment benefits for a year without adding to the deficit.
 
Reid told reporters shortly after noon that a deal could emerge by the end of the day.
 
“I’m cautiously optimistic that in the next few hours that we can maybe work out something for a long-term solution to this issue, long-term being more than three months,” he said.
 

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The Democratic leader said he was encouraged by recent conversations with Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the sponsors of a three-month extension that would add $6.4 billion to the deficit.
 
Reid acknowledged that a three-month extension without an offset is not likely to pass the Senate.
 
When asked if finding a pay-for for a yearlong extension was the only way forward, he said, “I think so.”
 
Extending unemployment benefits through the end of the year would cost about $26 billion.
 
Heller, however, hasn’t given Reid any indication about whether a yearlong extension of unemployment assistance offset by spending cuts could pass the House.
 
“If we pass something over here, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to just turn a blind eye to people who are desperate for a little help,” Reid said said.
 
Reid on Wednesday postponed a procedural vote to begin debate on the three-month unemployment aid package to give negotiators more time to find an offset.
 
He said earlier in the week that he would not support paying for a three-month extension of assistance but opened the door to accepting a yearlong proposal that did not add to the deficit.
 
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of Reid’s deputies, did not dismiss the possibility of extending sequestration to pay for the proposal.
 
“It remains to be seen,” Schumer said.
 
“I think the White House has made it clear that they would accept a pay-for that we find acceptable — for a full year,” he said.