Senate to take up yearlong extension of unemployment benefits

Senate Democrats will seek a yearlong extension of unemployment insurance benefits on Monday, the next step in their jobs agenda.

A Democratic leadership aide said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is hammering out a proposal that would extend unemployment benefits and several expiring tax provisions. The measure could be unveiled later Friday.
 

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The aide said the unemployment benefits would be combined with a tax extenders bill that passed the House Thursday. An extension of COBRA subsidies would likely also be included.

The Senate Finance Committee will discharge the legislation, An Act to Provide for Certain Extenders, on Monday and the Senate will move to consider it immediately. The Senate will vote on a circuit court nominee on Tuesday and then vote on amendments to the extenders bill. A vote on final passage may not take place until the week of March 8.
 
The federal unemployment benefits will begin to phase out on Feb. 28, potentially leaving some people without benefits for a week.

Senate Democrats had attempted and failed to gain Republican consent for the House-approved bill.
 
The House package includes several components:
 
·     An extension of unemployment benefits through April 5.
 
·     An extension of government subsidies for COBRA health insurance premiums.
 
·     An extension of the national flood insurance program through March 28.
 
·     An extension of the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, including a $60 million appropriation for the program.
 
·     A monthlong freeze on scheduled cuts to doctors’ Medicare reimbursements.
 
The package also includes a monthlong extension of Surface Transportation Authorization funding and a monthlong extension of the copyright license used by satellite television providers.
 
The Democratic leadership aide said Reid and other Democratic negotiators would likely lengthen the tax provision and program extensions to address GOP concerns. That would require the Senate to send the package back to the House for final approval.
 
Democrats’ efforts to pass a one-month extension of unemployment benefits stalled Thursday because of a filibuster from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). Bunning blocked the legislation to protest Reid’s decision to scrap a bipartisan jobs package negotiated earlier this month by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.).
 
Reid slammed Bunning’s action as “immoral.”
 
“The issue before us is this: this coming Sunday night — less than 72 hours from now — tens of thousands of Nevadans and more than a million Americans who rely on unemployment insurance and health benefits will lose them,” Reid said in a statement.
 
“Unemployment is rampant in every single state in the country,” he added.   
 
“We have the ability right now to extend them for just a short time until we work out a longer-term solution,” Reid said. “It is irresponsible not to. It is immoral.”
 
Bunning said Democrats acted inappropriately by scrapping the $85 billion jobs package negotiated by Finance Committee members. Reid replaced that proposal with a $15 billion proposal that included four components: a tax cut for employers who hire new workers; help for small business to write off the cost of major purchases; a transfer of funds to the Highway Trust Fund; and Build America Bonds, to subsidize the costs of municipal finance.  
 
“This debate could have been completely changed had not the other side rammed through a bill, a partisan bill, over a bipartisan bill,” Bunning said Thursday on the Senate floor. “You cannot preach bipartisanism and practice partisanship. I do not give a darn how good you are at conning people, people see through it.”