Senate could vote to renew UI next week

The Senate is expected next week to take up a measure to renew a federal unemployment benefits program.

The bipartisan legislation, led by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), could get a vote after the Senate wraps up work on a Ukraine assistance measure, a source told The Hill on Wednesday.

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The agreement on the plan, which was reached last week, would provide five months of benefits and would be retroactive back to the Dec. 28 expiration of the emergency program, which helps the long-term unemployed.

Reed and Heller have said they are confident the bill can pick up the votes needed to break a filibuster and pass the Senate.

If that happens, the bill’s fate would still be up in the air in the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) highlighted on Wednesday a letter from a trade group representing state unemployment insurance directors arguing that the bill would be impossible to implement in such a short period of time. 

The protestations about the measure didn't sit well in the Senate, where is has taken more than two months to finally craft a deal that has the potential to pass the upper chamber. 

In the past, Boehner has said he would be open to considering an unemployment bill that was fully paid for and included reforms to the program. 

"We believe the concerns that have been expressed are resolvable and we look forward to Speaker Boehner coming to the table to find solutions," said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"It is hard to imagine Speaker Boehner simply walking away from the thousands of people in Ohio who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and need this lifeline to make ends meet while they continue to look for work."

Lawmakers gathered up several pay-fors to cover the nearly $10 billion cost of restarting the program, which has been in place since June 2008.

The bill is cosponsored by 10 total lawmakers coming from both parties, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The emergency federal program kicks in once workers who continue looking for a new job have exhausted benefits, usually after 26 weeks.

Advocates have argued that another round of the program is warranted because the long-term unemployed comprise about 37 percent of all the jobless. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen noted on Wednesday during her first press conference as head of the central bank that "underemployment and long-term employment remain significant concerns." .

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