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No Deal on Extending Unemployment Benefits

March 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As the House was wrapping up health care reform last night, the Senate was engaged in a face-off over extending the filing deadline for unemployment benefits, which is currently set to happen on April 5th.

The sticking point: Democrats want to pass a one-month extension of the deadline, which will cost about $10 billion, without any plan to pay for it. Republicans, lead by Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK], want to extend the deadline and pay for the it with unused money form the stimulus bill.

Coburn is objecting to a unanimous consent agreement on quick passage of the Democrats’ bill that was approved by the House last week (H.R.4851). Besides the unemployment deadline, the bill would temporarily extend a slew of other expiring programs — COBRA health benefits for the unemployed, the national flood insurance program, funding for furloughed highway workers, and a delay in a scheduled 21% cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

Arthur Delaney at Huffington Post was told by a Democratic aide that “[Majority Leader Harry Reid] was not interested in cutting a deal that pays for unemployment benefits with stimulus funds, since offsetting the government spending by withdrawing money from another part of the economy essentially nullifies the stimulative effect of the benefits.”

Complicating things is the fact that Congress is trying to leave at the end of today for a recess that will last until April 12th. If they don’t come to an agreement, the filing deadline will expire and payments could end for hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers.

Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] filed “cloture” on the bill yesterday, setting up a vote to overcome Coburn’s objections on Saturday. If the Senate were to stick around to vote on Saturday, they would then be able to hold a final vote on the bill Monday.

But it appears that the Senate is not sticking around to vote and will let UI benefits and the other programs expire. According to Mike Lillis at the Washington, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said this morning that just 11 Republicans are available to vote.” This was basically expected. Republicans are bitter about the reconciliation process that Democrats used to overcome their objections and pass health care reform. Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] stated it plainly last week — “there will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” he said.

Democrats have vowed to work on extending the filing deadline for unemployment benefits right away when they come back in April. Reid says that the bill they eventually pass will be retroactive and that anyone affected by this stalemate will receive back-payments. But this means that checks will stop flowing for a couple of weeks to people that desperately need them and that state agencies that deal with this stuff will have to send out cancellation letters ad then retract them a couple weeks later.

UPDATE: The Senate has officially adjourned for the recess. Their last action was to scheulde a cloture vote on a retroactive bill for Monday, April 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Image of Coburn from SenateDemocrats used under a CC license.

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  • catfarmman 03/26/2010 1:06pm

    First Senator Bunning, now Senator Coburn. 80% of Americans who are receiving unemployment benefits HONESTLY need them. The 20% that abuse the system are the ones that are a**holes, one bad apple spoils the bunch. My home state is Michigan and I have been laid off since 09/2008 and have just exhausted the 4th tier of my extensions. I have not stopped looking for a job since the day I was laid off and am not “sucking up” government money, or as some people put it, collecting welfare. My fiance` has held down a job during this time and that has helped quite a lot. Like millions of Americans we are “underwater” with our mortgage and there just doesnt seem to be anything good on the horizon. So the Senators who chose not to vote for this bill we be headed home for their Easter break, while millions of Americans will be faced with the possibility of foreclosure, homelessness and many other headaches.

  • boydk65 03/26/2010 1:25pm

    We are in trouble with our house payments. We have 2 seperate payments on the same home, only way we could financing it at the time and were told not to worry. lol. Right. Now our government is attacking us with another payment , health care???!!! What? How are we, citizens, supposed to come up with the money? We cannot afford our homes much less pay for insurance. Businesses are struggling as well. I hit the follow the money button and almost became ill. How do they justify the millions, billions of dollars they put into thier greedy pockets? This law violates our civil rights and liberties. I want Obama impeached. I will never pay tis bill/law or support it in any way it is unconstitutional. I want Missouri and all other states who strongly disagree to seceed from te Union over it.

  • Betonavette 03/27/2010 6:18am

    “The problem with Socialism is that sooner or later you
    will run out of other peoples money.” Margret Thatcher, former PM United Kingdom.

    It’s happening to us now.

    This is important. It once again proves that those who don’t learn from history and bound to do the same things over and over.

  • MrJonson 03/28/2010 7:59am

    COBURN HAS NO BRAIN – His ridiculous position that the Extension must pay for itself and his Lame legislation submited just a day ago… is like 20 years too late. I find it amusing that his sudden “Fiscal Responsibility” screws millions of American families who are out of cash until April 14th or more; while Mr. Coburn is on vacation in the Bahamas. He should pick his fights wisely and this politcal stunt will backfire and show himself to be STUPID and unfit to hold office. Yes we need to pay for things in government, but isnt it funny they start now when millions of Americans need these checks to pay for food and electricity.

  • MrJonson 03/28/2010 8:01am

    I bet COBURN voted to pay 40 Billion for War in Iraq (largely unfunded liability) then holds up 10 Billion for American Families. COBURN IS A DISGRACE.

  • erikabda1 03/29/2010 1:37pm

    Are you kidding me? Is anybody else outraged about our lives being put on hold as they take a nice TWO WEEKS break for Easter, go on vacation enjoying their money and job security as WE the People are left speechless? Is anybody else sickened by the lack of care for the millions of workers that are unemployed as a result of this “Great Recession” and now without benefits? Where is the new Tier 5 of unemployment insurance benefits for those of us who paid into social security for our entire lives? Where are the jobs? They are directly responsible for this chaos, so now they must help us get through this Recession. Until the economy is back to normal and the real unemployment numbers are back to “pre-recession” times, the government must help to us. Wake up PEOPLE! Millions of HARD WORKING AMERICANS lost their jobs due to poor leadership. The government bailed out banks and business, but they can’t extend insurance benefits for us?

  • larrynr 03/29/2010 4:11pm

    Um, unemployment benefits is one of the spending items that has always been off budget. This was a ploy by Coburn; if he could stall long enough and force Reid to pay out of stimulus funds, they would then turn around and accuse the Democrats of using stim funds for the wrong reasons. Just goes to show you how Republicans don’t mind throwing Americans in need under the bus just to win power.

  • mullerken 03/30/2010 1:04am

    Those of us who have exhausted tier 4, may soon be homeless through no fault of our own. This government wastes so much money on projects and studies that benefit no one. I would think someone in Congress would have the guts to stand up for the people for a change. With all the bailouts going on… How about bailing us out… Government polices got us in this situation… They need to act on our behalf and not just for a month either.

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