The question of how to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed, which expired at the end of 2012, has been hotly contested in the Senate for almost three months. It appears the debate—at least in the Senate—may finally be coming to a resolution.
Senate negotiators reached an agreement that will extend the unemployment insurance program for five months. The benefits affect the long-term unemployed who have been out of work for at least six months. Because the new program will include retroactive benefits from December, the extension would expire for all beneficiaries in late May.
The agreement is similar to one proposed by Senate Republicans just last week.
The GOP plan is paid for by extending customs user fees through 2024, preventing individuals from receiving both unemployment and disability benefits, and pension smoothing. The bill also reforms the overall program, requiring beneficiaries to take any "suitable work" offered to them, asking state and federal agencies involved to determine why an individual remains unemployed, and preventing millionaires and billionaires from receiving the benefits.
Because of the recess, a vote is not expected until after senators return to Washington on March 24.
This will mark the fourth time this year that Senate leadership has brought an unemployment insurance package to the floor. The last effort, back in February, came just one vote short of the 60 needed for passage.
A Senate deal is still far from guaranteed to pass the House, where Republicans have expressed opposition to extending the benefits. House Speaker John Boehner has insisted he will not bring an unemployment insurance fix to the floor unless it is fully paid for and also includes a separate job-creation provision.