Senate advances bill to extend unemployment benefits

Thu, Mar 27, 2014 (3:52 p.m.)

Dean Heller

Dean Heller

After several efforts, the Senate today advanced a bill co-drafted by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to extend emergency unemployment benefits for five months.

The bill cleared a key procedural hurdle by a better-than-expected margin, but the late-breaking enthusiasm from Senate Republicans is showing no signs of trickling over to their counterparts in the House.

The Senate is likely to pass the bill later this week.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has already dismissed the bill, which passed the Senate procedural hurdle by a vote of 65-34, as “unworkable.”

Rank-and-file House Republicans are balking at signing a petition House Democrats are circulating to try to force Boehner to hold a vote on the legislation once it clears the Senate.

The Senate unemployment bill, which Heller wrote with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., would extend federal funding of long-term unemployment benefits for five months, retroactively paying benefits to Dec. 28, when the money first lapsed. Standard benefits run out after 26 weeks.

The bill also bans anyone who made $1 million dollars a year or more when employed from claiming unemployment benefits.

“There is a lot of work to be done before these benefits become a reality,” Heller said. “It is my hope that we can find a path forward that allows Congress to pass legislation that can be signed into law.”

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