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A Breakthrough on H.R. 4213, the Unemployment Insurance/Tax Extenders Bill?

June 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Peter Cohn at Congress Daily ($) thinks a deal may be in hand:

An amendment from Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to strike $25 a week in extra unemployment compensation from a nearly $140 billion package of benefit payments and tax breaks could shore up support among wavering senators concerned about its deficit impact. Senate Majority Leader Reid sought to cut off debate by filing cloture on the measure Monday, which as drafted would add about $79 billion to the deficit over a decade.

Tester’s amendment would only trim about $6 billion from that figure. But it could be seen as a gesture toward the position espoused by Blue Dogs and Senate Democrats like Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana, who are holding out for cost cuts.

The bill in question is H.R. 4213, the “American Jobs and Tax Loophole Closing Act of 2010,” which, among many other things, would extend the filing deadline for extended unemployment insurance benefits until Nov. 30, 2010. Congress has been in a stalemate over how to pass this bill amidst worries about adding to the deficit with a contentious mid-term looming and a partisan fight over who should see their tax bill increase as a pay-for — oil companies or hedge fund managers.

The New York Times ran an editorial on the issue today: “Since June 1, when federal unemployment benefits began to expire, an estimated 325,000 jobless workers have been cut off. That number will swell to 1.25 million by the end of the month unless Congress extends the benefits.”

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] filed for cloture on the bill yesterday, meaning that a vote to wrap up the debate and move towards final passage could take place later today. If the Tester amendment really is the silver bullet that’s needed here, Reid is hoping the Senate can pass the bill by the end of the week. It will have to go back to the House of Representatives for a vote on agreeing to the Senate amendments before it can be signed into law.

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