Bipartisan deal falls apart, endangering expiring unemployment benefits

A bipartisan Senate deal to briefly extend a package of expiring provisions fell apart Thursday night, endangering unemployment aid set to expire April 5.  

Senate leaders from both parties had neared a deal to allow swift passage of a package providing benefits for another week that would be fully paid for, according to Senate sources from both parties. The compromise was needed because Sen. Tom CoburnTom CoburnFreedom Caucus saved Paul Ryan's job: GOP has promises to keep Don't be fooled: Carper and Norton don't fight for DC Coburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential MORE (R-Okla.) blocked Senate Democrats from quickly passing a month-long extension. Coburn objected because its cost, $9.2 billion, wasn't offset and would increase the $12.7 trillion national debt.

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House Democrats wouldn't accept the deal. Rep. John Larson (Conn.), the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said the package should extend benefits for a month and should be considered "emergency spending," which means it wouldn't need to be paid for.

With Congress set to go on a two-week Easter break starting this weekend, unemployed Americans may go without benefits for at least a week.

Larson pinned the blame on Senate Republicans for slowing down Democrats' preferred package. 

"Apparently, they need another Bunning moment to drive the point home that this is about real people," Larson told The Hill, referring to Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-Ky.) decision to block a previous extension this month.

Senate Republicans blamed Democrats in the House for turning down their offers.

“Senate Republicans and Democrats came to an agreement on a short-term, fully paid-for extension of unemployment benefits to prevent potential expiration at the end of the month," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellLawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Overnight Finance: Inside Trump's tax plan | White House mulls order pulling out of NAFTA | New fight over Dodd-Frank begins Dem rep: Trump's tax plan as believable as 'magic, unicorns or Batman' MORE (R-Ky.). "Unfortunately, the bipartisan agreement that was reached in the Senate was rejected by House Democrats.”

Democrats are considering passing an extension that could be applied retroactively when they return April 12, according to Sens. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiBipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Dems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day After 30 years celebrating women’s history, have we made enough progress? MORE (D-Md.) and Tom CarperTom CarperDems probe claims of religious bias in DHS 'trusted traveler' program Senate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs Medicare’s coverage decisions need more input from physicians MORE (D-Del.).


Democrats are still hoping to pass the month-long extension before the Senate adjourns Wednesday. Senate Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinLawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Rob Thomas: Anti-Trump celebs have become 'white noise' Overnight Energy: Lawmakers work toward deal on miners’ benefits MORE (D-Ill.) repeatedly filed motions to immediately pass the longer, emergency extension by unanimous consent, only to have Coburn block it because it wasn't paid for. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) also filed a cloture motion Thursday to end debate, leaving open the chance the Senate could stay in Washington this weekend and pass the one-month extension early next week.

In addition to extending unemployment insurance, the legislation would prolong a freeze in scheduled cuts to doctors' Medicare payments, extend COBRA healthcare subsidies for the unemployed and extend a satellite television licensing agreement that could leave rural residents without network TV if it expired.

The impasse over the package could force Reid to miss a politically important event in Nevada scheduled for Saturday with Wayne LaPierre Jr., CEO of the National Rifle Association.

The two are scheduled to mark the opening of the new Clark County Shooting Park, which Reid helped build just north of Las Vegas.

J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this report.