GOP's Snowe seeks stand-alone extension on unemployment

In a letter to Reid (D-Nev.), the Maine Republican said the unemployment legislation should be separated from a larger package of tax provisions and state aid that has been stuck in the Senate for months.

"I am writing today to urge you to bring a free-standing extension of unemployment insurance benefits to the Senate floor for a vote early next week," wrote Snowe, who first asked Reid to pull the unemployment benefits from the larger bill two weeks ago.

"As of today, more than 1.2 million people out of work for longer than six months are ineligible for the next tier of extended benefits,"  she wrote.

In a response to Snowe's letter, Reid's spokesman Jim Manley blamed Republicans for holding up the extension of unemployment insurance. Every Republican voted against the package on Thursday when it failed to move forward in a 57-41 vote.

"We appreciate Sen. Snowe's concerns, but the fact is that she is sending a letter to the wrong person and to the wrong party," Manley said.

Snowe argues that Senate Republicans and Democrats were able to approve "doc fix" legislation to delaying a scheduled cut in physician Medicare payment after that measure was stripped from the package. The doc fix was approved by unanimous consent in the Senate and also sailed through the House on Thursday.

Snowe suggests the same success could occur for extending unemployment if Reid moves the measure separately. 

"[It] is clear that there are no insurmountable hurdles in trying to ease the challenge of prolonged unemployment for our citizens by voting for a UI bill on its own," Snowe wrote. "I am therefore hopeful that we can quickly move forward with a free-standing extension of unemployment benefits."

Snowe voted against the tax extenders package with the unemployment extension on Thursday. Her relationship with Reid has appeared to become more tense this week after Snowe told reporters that Reid did not follow through on a promise he made to her concerning tax provisions in the extenders bill. 

Snowe had concerns over how the bill taxed S corporations and how it levied retroactive taxes on certain organizations.

According to Snowe, Reid promised to take those measures out of the bill, but when the third iteration of the package was presented to her, her modifications were not included in the package. 

"They told me it was going to be taken out, and then last night, subsequently, they inserted it back in," Snowe told reporters. She said she "spent countless hours" negotiating with Senate Democratic leaders trying to modify the bill so that she could support it. 

"Next thing I know, we got a call from the [Finance Committee] Chairman's [Max Baucus] staff saying, 'Sorry, there were members of their Caucus who would not accept removing the retroactivity provision and they wanted the S corp provision reinserted,'" Snowe said. "So that's where it was left. That's the story."