More than 1 million lose unemployment benefits while Congress works on tax bill

The tax bill before the Senate extends federal jobless benefits through the end of 2011, providing a maximum of 99 weeks to states with high levels of unemployment for those who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state-provided benefits. 

The national unemployment rate is 9.8 percent. 

The lapse in benefits will require state unemployment agencies to spend several weeks to a month to resume issuing millions of retroactive unemployment checks, as well as delaying new unemployment claims, Owens said.  

"Every day that passes without reauthorization makes it less likely that those whose benefits have been cut off will have their payments restored before the Christmas holiday," she said. "Even the briefest lapse has devastating consequences for workers and families already stretched to the limit by the loss of employment income for extended periods."

House Democrats including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) suggested Monday they may try to amend the measure by offering a different set up of the estate tax. 

"I think we're going to have a vote on the Senate bill, with possible changes," Hoyer said. "We may have it with amendments, we'll see what the process is. … I think we will pass a bill."

President Obama and Senate Republicans agreed to a 35 percent tax rate with an exemption up to $5 million. Democrats have called for raising the tax rate to 45 percent and lowering the exemption to $3.5 million. 

Senate Republicans have said any changes would sink the measure in the upper chamber. 

The Senate moved forward Monday with the measure — on an 80-10 vote, so far — with a vote on passage expected as early as Tuesday, although it could slip until Wednesday. 

The vote was being held open for senators delayed by wintry weather. 

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