CHN: Senate Will Vote to Break Logjam on Unemployment Insurance
When the House sent an extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits to the Senate, it was hoped that senators would take it up rapidly. But the desire of both parties to attach amendments to the UI extension has resulted in delays since it first came to the Senate floor on October 8. Now it appears an agreement has been reached to add an extension of the new homebuyers’ tax credit and a tax break for businesses experiencing losses to the UI bill. On Monday evening, the Senate will vote on ending the stalling tactics so a vote on these combined provisions can take place. Between October 8 and November 2, about 175,000 jobless workers will have exhausted their benefits without the help of the delayed extension. (According to the National Employment Law Project, 600,000 workers exhausted their benefits in September and October, averaging 7,000 a day.)
The Senate’s version of the UI legislation (H.R. 3548) provides 14 additional weeks of unemployment insurance to workers in all states who have used up all their jobless benefits. In addition, states with unemployment rates exceeding 8.5 percent will be eligible for another 6 weeks.
Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) sought to package the extension of the homebuyers’ credit to the UI legislation. The credit, which provides up to $8,000 for new homebuyers, is scheduled to expire at the end of November. Senator Isakson (R-GA) drafted an amendment to extend the credit through the end of April and to make prospective homebuyers with higher incomes eligible. The current credit limits eligibility to individuals with incomes up to $75,000 and couples with incomes up to $150,000. The amendment raises those ceilings to $125,000 and $225,000, respectively. The business tax break allows businesses to count current losses against profits generated over the past five years, resulting in refunds on taxes paid in those earlier years.
Senators on October 27 signaled that they wanted to end delays over the UI extension by voting 87-13 in favor of a motion to proceed to take up the bill. Despite the overwhelming vote, efforts to add amendments did not cease. In addition to the homebuyers’ credit and business loss tax break, the Republican leadership is continuing to press for an amendment to sunset the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Majority Leader Reid has opposed allowing this amendment to be offered.
The vote scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Monday will limit debate (invoke cloture), so that final passage can occur later in the week. (For more information about the UI extension, see the October 16 Human Needs Report.)