Senators take another stab at extending unemployment benefits

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Two senators have put together a new proposal to renew unemployment insurance benefits that they hope will go far enough to entice House Republicans.

Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., will hold a press conference Tuesday morning unveiling a new bill that would re-start benefits for the 3.1 million people who have been cut off since the end of last year, when the program expired. They were the authors of the last bipartisan bill restoring benefits, which passed the Senate in early April but has languished in the House.

The chief concern among House Republicans with that bill was that it retroactively restored benefits back to Dec. 28, 2013, in addition to extending them for another five months. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, cited the National Association of State Work Force Agencies, arguing that implementingthe plan would have been a massive bureaucratic headache for the states.

To solve that problem, Reed and Heller are focusing only on restoring benefits to those who were cut off when the program expired before their eligibility did. "If you were eligible for three more weeks...you would be able to collect those three weeks," Chip Unruh, a spokesman for Reed, told CBS News. Those who were able to find work since the program expired would not be eligible to collect unpaid benefits, he said.

When the program expired on Dec. 28, 1.3 million people were affected. That number has swelled to 3.1 million since then.

Unruh did not know the exact cost of the legislation being crafted by Reed and Heller, but said it would be paid for the same way as the last version: A combination of spending reductions that would be achieved by tweaking pension laws and extending certain customs user fees.

It took several rounds of tweaking to reach the compromise legislation that passed the Senate in April. Six Republicans voted for that bill; it remains to be seen whether they will support this new proposal. Other Republicans are likely to sustain their objections to the fact that the bill doesn't include any job-creation measures.

In addition to objecting to the complications over implementing the bill, Boehner had also demanded that it be fully paid for and incorporate provisions to create jobs.

Reed said last month that the House should take up the bill and add those measures as they see fit.

"They can attach measures to the bill if they want, that's their prerogative. But let's go ahead and get a bill passed, and if we need to resolve the bill between the House and the Senate, let us do so," he said. "Refusing to vote is irresponsible."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has committed to bring up the bill again if Heller makes more progress with Republicans.

There is a small contingent of Republican lawmakers in the House who supported the compromise measure passed by the Senate and urged Boehner to take it up. House Democrats tried to force a vote on another extension of benefits but have had no luck with that strategy so far.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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