Jobless Benefits Extension: Senate Group Reaches Bipartisan Agreement

Friday, 14 Mar 2014 02:14 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. senators struck a deal to extend jobless insurance benefits for five months, but House Republicans aren't all behind the compromise.

The deal's breakthrough came in paying for the extensions, which would be retroactive from when they expired for the long-term unemployed in December, something Republicans wanted. The funds will come from changes to single-employer pension plans and extending fees on U.S. customs users through 2024.

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But influential House Republicans like U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan feel the discussion on unemployment extensions takes time away from efforts to improve the economy.

"I haven't seen [the bill], but no," Jordan told Time. "We need to be focused on policies that create jobs, not focusing on extending unemployment [insurance] forever."

U.S. Rep. Tom Price pointed to improved unemployment numbers and wondered if the debate was really necessary.

"The extended unemployment benefits by the Administration were to be in place until unemployment came down," Price told Time. "Unemployment is down."

Under the bill, the overall unemployment insurance program would see reforms requiring state and federal agencies to get more involved to determine why an individual remains unemployed and make assessments to that person.

The deal also includes an earlier provision encouraged by Sens. Tom Coburn and Jon Tester that would prevent individuals with a gross adjusted income of $1 million or more from receiving the benefits, according to the National Journal.

The proposal has eight co-sponsors: Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill).

House Speaker John Boehner has said in the past he would not entertain an unemployment extension compromise on the floor unless it was paid for and also includes a job-creation provision.

The legislation could help as many as 1.3 million people who lost the extended 73-week benefits Dec. 28 when Congress failed to renew the extension that stretched unemployment insurance from the normal 26 weeks.

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