By Alexander Bolton - 12/12/13 01:34 PM EST
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Thursday that unemployment benefits will be the first issue the Senate takes up when Congress returns to work in January.
Reid’s comments come amid anger from Democrat in both chambers that the two-year budget deal to be voted on in the House Thursday does not extend the benefits.
“That will be the first item we come to when we come back,” Reid said Thursday. “That will be our first item of business and of course we’ll try to make it retroactive for the days that we lose.”
He expressed confidence of success next year.
“This is something we’re focused on like a laser and we’re going to continue to working on it and I’m confident we’ll be able to extend unemployment benefits,” he said.
On Wednesday, Reid said unemployment benefits would be considered next year. His comments irked some liberals already angry the extension wasn’t in the budget deal.
Reid on Thursday also said the cost of the benefits should not be offset with spending cuts or deficit-reduction measures.
Government data released Thursday showed unemployment aid applications jumped to 368,000, nearly 50,000 more claims than economists expected.
“I’m very upset,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“Where are my Democrats? Why didn’t we put that in there?” he said of the budget deal.
Liberals were chagrined to learn the budget deal would be coupled with a freeze in scheduled cuts to doctors’ payments but not help for the unemployed.
“How did they fund the three-month extension of the doc fix? I was told, “By magic”. Well, use the same magic for UI,” Harkin said.
Reid said Thursday he’s as disappointed as many of his colleagues. He said House Republicans did not leave a vehicle for moving unemployment assistance when the attached the doctors’ payments fix to the budget compromise.
“For me, I’m about as disappointed as anyone could be because Nevada leads the nation in unemployment,” Reid said.